Apr 5, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Francisco Rodriguez (57) pitches against the Boston Red Sox during the eleventh inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
Here we are, coming up on game 16 and the Brewers have the best record in baseball. How did this happen? Everything is going well; most importantly the team is (for the most part) healthy. Also, right out of the gates the starting pitching has been phenomenal. The bullpen has been no slouch either, especially in the late innings. After a surprise insertion of Francisco Rodriguez into the closing role the rest of the pen has followed suit. Will this outstanding production last? In case of “closer meltdown” what is Plan B? Plan C?
Most fans (including myself) were surprised on opening day when Ron Roenicke called for Francisco Rodriguez to close the game. Wasn’t this Jim Henderson’s job to lose? I thought Francisco was brought in for insurance, what is he doing in the ninth of game 1? In hindsight, it was a smart move on the part of Roenicke and staff to go with the proven Francisco. During Spring Training, Henderson had experienced a drop in velocity so the team decided to be patient and wait for their young arm to bounce back. After all, isn’t that what an insurance policy like Rodriguez is for? Again, hindsight this was a nice move, at the time not exactly what many had in mine. Since, Rodriguez has made seven appearances (seven innings) with no runs with a strikeout/walk ratio of 12.00 (12 Ks, 0 BBs).
Meanwhile Henderson is regaining his velocity and beginning to take closer form, albeit not without some bumps (given up four runs in just over five innings). Both his velocity and strikeout/walk ratio (8 Ks, 2 BBs) is encouraging. Especially considering Henderson is probably Plan B for this season. Should Rodriguez struggle or suffer an injury, Henderson would most likely be handed the ball (even if not back 100%). As smoothly as the team is operating today, think about that. At the moment the team is banking a lot on K-Rod.
The good news is the Brewers appear to have some bullpen depth. In addition to Rodriguez and Henderson, both Tyler Thornburg and Will Smith appear to be potential Plan C closers (Benjamin Orr covers this in depth here) as well as Brandon Kintzler (currently on DL) should he be called upon.
Regardless of Henderson’s progress, the job now belongs to K-Rod (not exactly Tom Brady/Drew Bledsoe, but you get the idea). Will he keep the job or will the team have to resort to Plan B or Plan C? Hopefully everyone stays healthy and there is no need, of course, it’s nice to have options.
What do you think? Should K-Rod continue closing or do you want Henderson to assume the role when ready? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.