2023 Comeback Player of the Year Winners

2023 Comeback Player of the Year Winners

Liam Hendricks and Cody Bellinger were named the 2023 American League and National League Comeback Player of the Year, respectively, on Tuesday. They were honored for seasons that were triumphant for entirely different reasons.

Hendricks, a three-time All-Star closer for the White Sox, was diagnosed with stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in December. Soon after, the powerful right-hander expressed his determination to return to the major league mound. His battle against the disease included going through chemotherapy sessions between chemotherapy treatments in the lead-up to the season.

Hendricks, 34, pitched five innings in five games with the White Sox before being shut down in June with right elbow inflammation and subsequently underwent Tommy John surgery in August. Hendricks, a free agent, aims to pitch in 2024.

The right-hander is the second White Sox player to win the Comeback Player of the Year award. It was won by Jim Tom in 2006. Hendrix also received the Jimmy V Perseverance Award at the 2023 ESPYs in July and was named a nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award for the fifth time in his career.

Bellinger’s career has been a story of peaks and valleys. Bellinger was the 2017 National League Rookie of the Year and 2019 National League Rookie of the Year, averaging 37 home runs and a 144 OPS+ over his first three seasons in the league. He then won the World Series with the Dodgers in 2020.

However, the left-handed slugger hit just .193 over the next two injury-plagued seasons. He hit 29 home runs over 800 at-bats and had a strikeout rate of 27.1%. The Dodgers decided not to tender Bellinger after the 2022 season, making him a free agent.

Seeking to reclaim his value, Bellinger signed a one-year contract with the Cubs in December. He bounced back in a big way, putting up a .307/.356/.525 slash line, 26 dingers and a career-low K rate of 15.6%.

The 28-year-old was the Premier League Player of the Month for July and collected his second Silver Slugger award. He was also one of four players last season to hit at least .300 with more than 25 homers and more than 20 stolen bases, joining Ronald Acuña Jr. of the Braves, Shohei Ohtani of the Angels, and Freddie Freeman of the Dodgers.

Bellinger, the first Cubs player to earn Comeback Player of the Year honors, is now one of the best players on the open market.

The Player of the Year award has been given by MLB annually since 2005 to one player in each league who has “made one more appearance on the field during the season.” Winners are determined after 30 winning clubs are voted on by MLB.com reporters. Last year’s honorees were Astros outfielder Justin Verlander and former Cardinals star Albert Pujols.

(tags for translation) MLB

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