Henderson temporarily replaces Axford as closer
CHICAGO -- For the second straight season, John Axford is temporarily out as the Brewers' closer.
Another Canadian right-hander, Jim Henderson, was called upon for the final three outs of the Brewers' tense, 7-4 win over the Cubs on Monday, and will proceed in that role while Axford tries to iron out the issues that produced his 20.25 ERA through three appearances.
"I told him that I want him to be our closer," Roenicke said. "How we think is the best way to get him back in that role is pretty much what we did with him last year -- put him back in wherever it's going to be: sixth [inning], seventh, maybe eighth, and let him get his stuff back.
"Once he gets his stuff back, we'd like him back in that role."
That is what happened last season after the Brewers removed Axford from the role in July. After he asked back into the position in August, he converted 17 of his final 18 save opportunities.
In three appearances this year, Axford has recorded eight outs and been charged with six runs on eight hits, including four home runs. He suffered a blown save on Dexter Fowler's two-out home run on Opening Day, surrendered two more Rockies homers two days later in a non-save situation and then pitched again Sunday with the Brewers and D-backs tied at 6.
Roenicke would have liked to remove Axford after a harrowing but scoreless 10th inning, but felt compelled to send him out for another inning. The bullpen, though eight men strong, was already taxed and left-hander Chris Narveson was sidelined by a sprained left middle finger that sent him to the 15-day disabled list on Monday evening.
It was in that second inning of work that Axford allowed a two-run home run to Arizona's Eric Hinske. It decided the Brewers' 8-7 loss, their fifth in a row.
Henderson, who helped snap the losing streak on Monday, believes Axford will reclaim his job again.
"I do," Henderson said. "He's a great pitcher, and just watching his outing, his stuff is still great. Similar to [Francisco Rodriguez] last year, the stuff is still there. He just needs to put it together consistently."
The switch appeared to represent a change of heart for Roenicke, who responded, "No, not at all," when asked if he was considering a change Sunday, after Axford surrendered a home run for the third straight outing. When asked Monday morning whether he would use Axford to close the Cubs' home opener, Roenicke had a different answer.
"I need to have a discussion with 'Ax' on what we plan to do," Roenicke said, "so I can't really give you an answer until I talk to him."
That discussion took place in left field during batting practice.