Jim Henderson (left) proved himself as a capable closer last season. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
In 2014, the Milwaukee Brewers will be rolling with a bullpen that for the most part, will be heading into their second season as a group. Prior to 2013, the bullpen had been dismantled and only two of the pitchers from that bullpen are currently still here.
The purpose of this article is to see exactly what the Brewers’ bullpen might look like this upcoming season.
Closer: Jim Henderson
There’s not a doubt in my mind that Henderson will retain the closer’s role, especially after a successful 2013 campaign. The only reason why he pitched in middle to late relief during portions of June and July last season was so that the Brewers could increase Francisco Rodriguez‘s trade value, not because Henderson was struggling. Also, Henderson was on the disabled list for a short period of time, but other than those two instances, any appearance Henderson really had only were to shut the game down.
I don’t know that Henderson will be the Brewers’ closer after 2014, but during the season, or at least for a good portion of it, he’ll be there. Projections on FanGraphs have him racking up 28 saves this season alongside posting an ERA of 3.39. Those aren’t the worst numbers for a closer, but something makes me question why they project him to have under 30 saves, which is below the norm for closers. Regardless, Henderson holds the job for now and whether he loses it due to struggles or being traded shall remain to be seen.
Set-up man: Brandon Kintzler
After proving how flexible he was in the bullpen, Kintzler by far earned the set-up man role as he found a niche pitching in the eighth inning. Primarily a two-inning guy for manager Ron Roenicke, Kintzler pitched in an eighth inning role which saw him notch 26 holds and post an ERA of 2.69 all in 77 innings or 71 games. He was a successful bullpen piece for the Brewers in 2013 and probably the most valuable as he was just able to get the team out of rough patches.
Going forward, Kintzler may slide into the occasional save situation, much like what Henderson did when John Axford was still the closer. I cannot say for sure that Kintzler will necessarily take over that role, but he may be next in line should anything happen to Henderson. I have full confidence in Kintzler for 2014 because he clearly proved last season that he’s one of the most dependable arms in the Brewers’ bullpen.
In the next and final part, I’ll take a look at the mid-relief roles and who may or may not pitch in long relief.