The Milwaukee baseball club is sponsored by an American brewery; you'll see the name as you walk in the park. The bullpen closers? They're all outsourced to Canada, amigos.
Ontario native John Axford became Milwaukee's surprise stopper in 2010, but he's run out of gas this year. Several options have been tried in Axford's place (and he's been given some chances to regain the job), but maybe unheralded reliever Jim Henderson, another Canadian fireballer, is ready to become the final answer.
Henderson's story is more Bull Durham than Dennis Eckersley; he's a 29-year-old journeyman with 10 years of minor-league experience. The Expos, of all teams, drafted him with a 26th-round selection in 2003; they had a keen eye on the Calgary right-hander. He's never been on anyone's hot-prospect list.
Henderson was given a chance to close for Triple-A Nashville this year, however, cashing in on a strong strikeout rate and some improved control. Henderson posted a 1.69 ERA and 15 saves with the Sounds, with 56 strikeouts (against 22 walks) over 48 innings. He's allowed just two homers. The Brewers, desperate for bullpen help, called him up for depth in late July.
Henderson's first two weeks in the show have been a breeze: 7 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 10 K. He closed out Tuesday's win over Cincinnati — with Axford essentially unavailable after a five-out save Monday — and he came back to shake hands Wednesday, working the ninth after Axford handled the eighth. Both men are right-handed pitchers (with similar styles), so this wasn't a matchup-driven decision. With possession being most of the law when it comes to save-chasing, we have to take Henderson seriously until he has a few messy outings.
Although Henderson's raw stuff isn't as good as Axford's, the set up is similar. We're looking at a big arm and a raw talent, someone capable of missing bats but with obvious control questions. If Henderson continues to pound the zone, I see no reason why he can't take this job and run with it. Manager Ron Roenicke would love to have an automatic option for the ninth.
To be fair to Axford, he did work a perfect inning Wednesday and he recorded Monday's hard-working save. He's not out of the mix. But with a 5.10 ERA, a 1.45 WHIP and seven homers allowed, you can understand why the club is interviewing other candidates.
If you want to kick the tires on Henderson, you'll find him available in 96 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Take off, hosers.
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