He replaced an All-Star and in the end, the Milwaukee Brewers were just fine with rookie Jim Henderson doing the closing in 2013 and the job he did earned him the title of Brewers101.com’s Top Rookie Pitcher for the Crew this season.
Henderson, 30, began the year in a setup role for John Axford, took over the closer duties when Axford faltered, lost the job to Francisco Rodriguez when Henderson went on the disabled list with a hamstring strain in late May and then outlasted both veterans in Milwaukee while regaining the job at the end of games.
Rodriguez was traded to the Baltimore Orioles in July, opening the closer’s job for Henderson, while Axford wound up being dealt to the St. Louis Cardinals at the waiver trading deadline on Aug. 31.
Henderson had 28 saves in 32 chances, working in 61 games and 60 innings. He had a 2.70 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP while going 5-5 with 75 strikeouts.
In fairness to Henderson, only one of the blown saves came in the ninth inning or later—the others occurred while he was still in a setup role.
The Canadian right-hander was a late bloomer, going through two organizations before landing with the Brewers in April 2009 and he didn’t make his major-league debut until July 26, 2012, when he was already 29 years old.
He was originally drafted by the Montreal Expos in the 26th round in 2003 out of Tennessee Wesleyan College. In December 2006, Henderson was claimed by the Chicago Cubs in the Rule 5 draft and was released by Chicago in March 2009.
The Brewers signed him on April 1, 2009, and later re-signed him after he was granted free agency following the 2010 season.
He didn’t reach Triple-A Nashville until 2011 and struggled in 20 appearances there, with a 5.93 ERA and 1.549 WHIP in 30.1 innings with 23 walks and 30 strikeouts. But his control got better in 2012 and he was dazzling as the Sounds’ closer to start the season, saving 15 games with a 1.69 ERA and 1.208 WHIP in 48 innings over 35 appearances, striking out 56 and walking 22 before getting the big-league call for the first time.
With a fastball that tops out at 98 mph or better and a put-away slider, Henderson held opposing hitters to a batting line of just .200/.285/.341 and held right-handed hitters to a paltry .165/.232/.243 split.
Henderson wasn’t the only rookie pitcher for the Crew in 2013, just the best. Other rookie hurlers this year for Milwaukee included Michael Blazek, Hiram Burgos, Donovan Hand, Johnny Hellweg, Jimmy Nelson, Wily Peralta, Tyler Thornburg and Rob Wooten.
Coming Thursday to Brewers101.com: Top Rookie.
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