By Nathan Petrashek
An Opening Day win is always fun, but this one came with a twist: the Brewers, nursing a 2-0 lead in the ninth, called upon Francisco Rodriguez, not Jim Henderson, to secure the handshake. K-Rod managed to do so, despite an eight-pitch at bat by the first batter, Chris Johnson.
Ron Roenicke made the change official after the game, telling reporters he wasn’t pleased with Henderson’s spring:
To be fair, Henderson’s spring wasn’t anything special, as he accumulated a 6.00 ERA over 9 innings with 7 strikeouts and 5 walks (1.56 WHIP). Still, for a front office who justified jettisoning Juan Francisco by citing the general meaninglessness of spring statistics, the move is odd.
Henderson pitched 60 innings of 2.70 ERA ball in 2013, notching 28 saves and a hefty 75 strikeouts. He may have had a little luck on his side (3.58 FIP), and struggled against lefties (.786 OPS). Henderson was developing a change to counter that split and help keep left-handed batters from sitting on his 95 mph fastball.
K-Rod has plenty of closing experience but is a long way removed from his 62-save season in 2008. He’s been a favorite of the Brewers front office though, and has had three separate stints with the team in as many years. Rodriguez even briefly took over the closer’s role last season, earning 10 saves as the Brewers looked to shop him (successfully) at the deadline.