Top 20 Volcanoes players of all time: #19 Clay Hensley

Clay Hensley played for three different teams over his seven-year MLB career (Courtesy of SB Nation).

Coming in at #19 of the Keizertimes list greatest of greatest Volcanoes of all time is Clay Hensley. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound, right-handed pitcher played in the Major Leagues for seven seasons with three different teams, ending his career with a 28-34 record and an ERA of 4.00.

Hensley grew up in Tomball, TX and played his college ball at Lamar University before being drafted in the eighth round by the San Francisco Giants in 2002.

While not a hard thrower, Hensley often times used in upper-80s sinker to induce weak contact against opposing hitters. Hensley also had a low-80s slider and looping 70 MPH curveball in his arsenal — to go along with his changeup and four-seam fastball. 

Hensley debuted with the Volcanoes in 2002 and made his first professional season a standout one. In 81.2 innings of work, all of them starts, Hensley went 7-0 with an 2.53 ERA, striking out 84 and only walking 25 — he led the team in wins, innings pitched, strikeouts and complete games.

In 2003, Henley started the year off in the South Atlantic League, playing for the Single-A Hagerstown Suns. In 15 starts, he went 4-3 with a 3.18 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 68 innings. He even threw a perfect game during his tenure with Hagerstown, which earned him the call-up to high-A ball in San Jose.

But after Hensley’s ERA ballooned to 5.83 in five appearances, he was traded to the San Diego Padres organization.

After showing some improvement in high-A ball with the Lake Elsinore Storm to end the 2003 campaign, Hensley spent all of the 2004 playing Double-A with the Mobile BayBears of the Southern League, going 11-10 over 27 starts, a 4.30 ERA, a 1.352 WHIP, and 125 K’s in 159 innings pitched.

He returned to the Pacific Northwest in 2005, playing for the Portland Beavers in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. After having an ERA under three in 14 starts, Hensley received his call-up to the Padres on July 20, 2005.

Hensley transitioned to a vital middle-relief role for the Padres after coming up as a starter. In his 24 games with San Diego, Hensley made heads turn by recording a 1.70 ERA and 28 K’s in 47.2 innings of work, helping San Diego to the National League West Division title — the Padres manager at the time was Bruce Bochy, who, ironically, coached a multitude of other Volcanoes players in his tenure as manager of the Giants from 2007-19 and won three World Series rings with San Francisco. 

In 2006, Hensley went from a middle reliever to the #2 starter in the Padres rotation next to Jake Peavy, who went onto win the Cy Young award the next season.

Hensley made 29 starts on the year and went 11-12 with a 3.71 ERA and struck out 122 as the Padres won their second straight NL West crown. 

Hensley made five total appearances in the 2005 and 2006 playoffs — both coming in the National League Division Series. In his 7.1 total innings of work, Hensley gave up just two runs.

Injuries hampered Hensley’s 2007 season as he spent most of the year on injured reserve and struggled in his rehab appearances. On Aug. 4, 2007, Hensley gave up Barry Bonds’ 755th home run, tying Hank Aaron for the most dingers of all time. The following day, Hensley was optioned back to the minor leagues.

Another injury-hampered season in 2008 prompted San Diego to release Hensley. He was picked up by the by the Houston Astros and signed a minor league contract, but was let go in May of 2009.

Shortly after his release, Hensley was signed by the Florida Marlins, once again on a minor league contract. Having to prove himself all over again, Hensley had an impressive stint with the Triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs, going 8-4 with a 3.24 ERA, a 1.254 WHIP and 82 K’s in 114 innings.

Hensley’s performance at the Triple-A level earned him a roster spot on the Marlins for the 2010 season, where he returned to the bullpen and experienced arguably the best season of his career.

Hensley led the team with 68 appearances and, later in the season, recorded seven saves after taking over the closer role. In his 75 innings of work, Hensley had a team-best 2.16 ERA with 77 K’s over 75 innings. He was also third on the team in WHIP (1.107) and second in K’s per nine innings (9.2).

In games Hensley appeared in, the Marlins would go 45-23 — as opposed to their record of 35-59 in games where he didn’t appear.

However, Hensley couldn’t duplicate that same success with the Marlins in 2011, going 6-7 with a 5.19 ERA in 37 games, including nine starts.

In his last big league season, Hensley was able to sign with the team that originally drafted him, the San Francisco Giants, in 2012. In 60 games with the Giants, all coming out of the bullpen, he went 4-5 with a 4.62 ERA in 50.2 innings. His last appearance came on Oct. 3, 2012. Even though he didn’t pitch in the postseason, Hensley received a championship ring after the Giants won the 2012 World Series.