Roenicke's plan for Henderson is open-ended
MILWAUKEE -- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke reiterated Tuesday that he envisions reinstalling Jim Henderson to the closer's role, and said the team's surprising Opening Day switch should not be a blow to Henderson's confidence.
"Believe me, that's what we talk about," Roenicke told reporters on Tuesday, a day after Francisco Rodriguez was Roenicke's pick to save the Brewers' 2-0 win over the Braves.
Rodriguez will continue to close games until further notice, while Henderson attempts to prove to Roenicke and other Brewers brass that he deserves the job back. He took a first step on Tuesday night, striking out Braves left fielder Justin Upton with a 95-mph fastball to strand a runner at second base in the eighth inning of the Brewers' 5-2 loss to the Braves.
After the game, Roenicke called it "better." Catcher Jonathan Lucroy called it "a lot better."
"I think this is the best way to get his confidence back," Roenicke said. "Say I put him into that [closer] role [Monday] night and his stuff really isn't ready and his confidence isn't there and he gives it up last night, what does that do to his confidence? So we're doing this to try to get him back, the best way we can and the fastest way we can. We think this is the best way to do it."
Henderson mostly threw 91-93 mph fastballs and touched 94 mph at the end of his final Spring Training tuneup against the Royals on Friday, shy of the 95.2 mph he averaged while converting 28 of 32 save opportunities last season, but Roenicke had said it's not all about velocity. Brewers coaches are also looking at opposing hitters' swings, which appeared comfortable throughout Henderson's spring, despite the fact that his final four appearances were scoreless.
Henderson hit all the right notes when talking to reporters in a victorious clubhouse on Monday night, conceding that his spring was sub-par and that he still had to work to pinpoint the timing of his delivery, and saying that he would accept whatever the coaching staff believes is best for the year.
"The ball is coming out better and better, so I'm going to hopefully continue that on to the season. As a competitor, I want to go out there and pitch every chance I get, but what was best for the team today was we got the win," Henderson said.
On Tuesday morning, in a regularly-scheduled radio appearance on 1250-AM WSSP, Henderson said he discussed the switch with Roenicke on Sunday, and that it was "a little shocking."
Asked on the air what his immediate role would be, Henderson said, "That's a mystery to me. We'll see how it goes. I think it'd be great to just get out there, I don't really care what inning right now. I just want to go out there and compete."
Roenicke has a plan in mind.
"Ideally, I would like to get him a couple of outings where the game wasn't on the line. That's ideal," Roenicke said. "I'm not saying we can do that, because if he has to pitch an inning I need him to pitch, then he'll pitch.
"But we want him as a closer. That's what we want. We want him as the guy he was last year, and that's what we're trying to get him to be. If a couple of outings helps him get back to where he was -- maybe it's more than a couple, maybe it's just one. I don't know."