Liam Hendriks and Cody Bellinger Named 2023 Comeback Players of the Year
Liam Hendriks and Cody Bellinger have been named as the winners of the 2023 Comeback Player of the Year awards in the American League and National League, respectively. Both players were honored for their triumphant seasons despite facing very different challenges.
Hendriks, a three-time All-Star who will pitch for the White Sox in 2023, was diagnosed with Stage 4 non-Hodgkin lymphoma in December of the previous year. Despite this setback, the determined right-hander expressed his determination to return to a major league mound. His fight against the disease included bullpen sessions between preseason chemotherapy treatments.
By April, Hendriks was in remission and made his season debut with the White Sox on May 29, just five months after his diagnosis. However, his comeback was short-lived, as he had to stop pitching in June due to right elbow inflammation and subsequently underwent Tommy John surgery in August. Despite these challenges, Hendriks aims to pitch in 2024 and remains a free agent.
Bellinger’s career has also seen its fair share of challenges. Despite being named the 2017 National League Rookie of the Year and the 2019 NL MVP, Bellinger’s performance dipped over the next two injury-plagued seasons. The left-handed hitter hit just .193 and struggled with a high strikeout rate. The Dodgers decided not to offer him a contract after the 2022 season, making him a free agent.
Looking to restore his value, Bellinger signed a one-year deal with the Cubs in December. He had a remarkable comeback season, with an impressive .307/.356/.525 line, 26 home runs, and a significantly reduced strikeout rate.
Bellinger’s resurgence earned him the National League Player of the Month for July and his second Silver Slugger award. He also joined a select group of players to hit at least .300 with 25-plus home runs and 20-plus stolen bases during the season.
Both players’ triumphant comebacks were recognized by the MLB, with Hendriks receiving the Jimmy V Perseverance Award at the 2023 ESPYs and Bellinger becoming the first Cubs player to win the Comeback Player of the Year award.
The Comeback Player of the Year award is given annually by MLB to a player from each league who has made a remarkable return to the field during the season. Winners are determined by a vote by MLB.com’s 30 reporters who cover Major League clubs. Last year’s winners were Astros pitcher Justin Verlander and Cardinals legend Albert Pujols.