Another early-season closer shuffle

Last season, the Brewers changed closers after one week. This season, they changed closers before the season’s first pitch.

It was Francisco Rodriguez, not presumptive closer Jim Henderson, who logged the final three outs of Monday’s 2-0 Opening Day win over the Braves, a switch surprised a sellout crowd at Miller Park and some players on the field alike.

“I didn’t know what was going on there,” third baseman Aramis Ramirez said.

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke explained.

“We had a conversation about Henderson yesterday and until we feel like he’s throwing the way he can and was last year, we’re going to put him in a role that we can give him a couple outings to get his stuff back and his confidence going,” Roenicke said. “That’s just a decision we had to make. I talked to him about it and I talked to ‘Frankie’ today about closing. We feel good about it.”

Henderson did not allow a run in any of his final four Spring Training appearances, but pitched with diminished velocity and “life,” to the point Brewers officials were concerned. Rodriguez also had an uneven spring, missing time in March after he stepped barefoot on a cactus and then allowing at least a run in each of his final three outings.

He pulled four more cactus spines from his foot on Sunday but is now pitching pain-free, and while Roenicke indicated he would eventually like to restore Henderson to the role, Rodriguez is Milwaukee’s closer until further notice.

“Definitely, I was surprised,” Rodriguez said. “Especially [because] coming out of camp, ‘Hondo’ was supposed to be the guy who was throwing the ninth inning. At the same time, it’s a challenge that I’m looking forward to.”

Henderson took the news in stride.

“That’s how it’s going to start off, and we’ll take another 162 games just like that [victory] today,” Henderson said. “I’m a reasonable teammate and player, and I realize I didn’t have a great spring. It was fine. Whatever is best for the team.”

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