Henderson, the former Milwaukee closer who had been the pitching coach at Triple-A Nashville, is taking over as the Brewers' bullpen coach. He replaces Steve Karsay, who stepped down after two years, citing a desire to spend more time with his family.
And Erickson, the former utilityman who has been coaching or managing in the Minor League system for the past 13 years, is being promoted to the Major League staff as infield instructor and assistant hitting coach.
"For both Jim and I, we're not stepping into a brand new situation," Erickson said. "There are some current relationships built, and both of us are Brewers, you know? We played for the Brewers, we have now coached a number of years in their system and want nothing but the best for the organization."
Coaching staffs have been growing across baseball as new technology and analytics expand the duties of coaches and instructors, and Milwaukee is part of that trend. With the addition of Erickson’s position, there are now 11 coaches on Craig Counsell’s Major League staff, including some unconventional additions in the past handful of years, like co-hitting coaches Ozzie Timmons and Connor Dawson, associate pitching, catching and strategy coach Walker McKinven and co-bullpen catchers (Nestor Corredor and Adam Weisenburger).
Henderson sees that growth in positive terms.
"I think about my few years in the Minor Leagues as a coach, and the few people you have to bounce ideas off of," Henderson said. "You can call the coordinators, you can call other people in the organization, but to be in the same room with smart guys every day, to bounce ideas and get better and stronger, and put together plans for your players to help them get better, I think that is going to be extremely beneficial."
As for the challenges of so many voices coming from the coaches' room?
"Just making sure you're on the same page," Henderson said. "I think that starts with Craig and [pitching coach Chris] Hook, who for me are great communicators. From my time in Spring Training with them, when you talk, they listen, and when they talk, you listen. It's been a great relationship so far with that staff."
Henderson, 39, spent the past four seasons as a coach in Milwaukee’s Minor League chain, starting as bullpen coach with Rookie-level Helena in 2018 before promotions to Class A Wisconsin in ’19 and then to the top affiliate, Nashville. He pitched professionally for 14 seasons from 2003-16, including parts of four in the Major Leagues with the Brewers (2012-14) and Mets (2016). Henderson, a native of Calgary, also has international experience pitching for Team Canada in the Pan American Games in 2011 and the World Baseball Classic in 2013 and 2017.
His finest season was 2013, when Henderson logged 28 saves for the Brewers with a 2.70 ERA in 61 games. He suffered a shoulder injury the following season which impacted the remainder of his career.
Erickson, 46, was born and raised in Appleton, Wis., home of one of Milwaukee’s Class A clubs. After an 11-year pro playing career, including 2004-05 with his home-state Brewers, Erickson joined the organization’s coaching ranks in 2009 and was promoted to Timber Rattlers manager in 2011. He had managed there ever since, winning the Midwest League title in 2012.
Of the duties in his job title -- infield and assistant hitting coach -- Erickson said he expects most of his time to be dedicated to infield instruction. He met with Counsell over coffee last week to discuss at length how Erickson will fit on the staff as he transitions from Minor League manager to Major League coach.
"He is one of my favorite managers to work for," said Henderson, who is in the unique position of playing for Erickson at Wisconsin in 2009 and then, a decade later, serving as his pitching coach there. "Good communicator. He helped me out tremendously. That was my first full season as a pitching coach and he took me under his wing and kind of guided me a little bit. He has those leadership qualities you like to see in a coach."
"Those are kind words," Erickson responded, "but Jim didn't need a whole lot of guidance to be perfectly honest with you. He's a fit to the mold. He knows the game inside and out and he's able to communicate that. Right now in the game, there's a ton of information and analytics is a hot topic and it's not going away. It's great. The more information you can provide, the better. But what Jim does a great job with is he has tremendous feel for what is happening on the field or in the bullpen, and now he knows the analytics as well."
The Brewers also announced the addition of Daniel Vega to the Major League staff as assistant strength and conditioning specialist. He takes the place of Jason Meredith, who became the organization’s rehabilitation strength and conditioning coach in Arizona.
The club has not yet announced its Minor League staffs for 2022, which will include new faces as manager at Wisconsin and pitching coach at Nashville.