MILWAUKEE -- How dire is the Brewers' bullpen situation? A team with John Axford, who went 46-for-48 in save chances last season, and Francisco Rodriguez, Major League Baseball's single-season saves king, will try closer-by-committee."We're going to go with whatever we see in the game," manager Ron Roenicke said. "Unfortunately, it's come to that. I would probably rather have a set bullpen, but we're going to match it and see how we do that way." It's not for lack of pitchers with closing experience that Roenicke has taken a new approach to the end of his bullpen, as Axford and Rodriguez had 381 career saves between them entering Thursday. But after blowing his sixth save on July 16, Axford was removed from closing duties and Rodriguez took over. Rodriguez then blew two straight saves against the Phillies, opening up Roenicke to the idea of other pitchers closing. Roenicke said that includes the possibility of using veteran Livan Hernandez. The 37-year-old right-hander has appeared in eight games for the Brewers this season, notching a 4.76 ERA with 10 strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings. A Major League starter for 15 seasons, Hernandez moved to the bullpen this year with the Braves and earned the only save of his career on May 5. Hernandez joined Milwaukee in June, and Roenicke said he likes the attitude he brings to the mound. "I know one thing about him: he isn't going to be bothered by what's the circumstance," Roenicke said of Hernandez. "He's going to throw strikes. And that's not to say he won't go out there and walk somebody, but he's going to attack the hitters. I'm OK with that." For Axford, who entered the season considered to be a legitimate closer after last season, he hopes to earn his regular spot back. Since losing that role, Axford has appeared in five games, surrendering two hits and no runs in 5 1/3 innings. Both Roenicke and Axford said it's helped the 29-year-old right-hander to pitch in situations earlier in the game without as much pressure. Axford said he has returned to the same spot mentally as he was last year, and he believes he's taking steps toward being the Brewers' closer again soon. "I feel fantastic, and I think we'll see how it goes from there," Axford said. "Obviously, if they want to have me keep throwing where I am right now to feel even more confident with a few good outings still before [returning to the closer role], I think that's going to be fantastic, too."
After 10 seasons in Minors, Henderson called up
MILWAUKEE -- After spending parts of 10 seasons in the Minor Leagues, pitcher Jim Henderson received his first taste of the Major Leagues on Thursday, when he was called up to Milwaukee from Triple-A Nashville.Brought in to help a bullpen that has struggled mightily, Henderson has registered 15 saves and a 1.69 ERA in 35 appearances this season with the Sounds. Henderson said there had been hints the Brewers might bring him to Milwaukee, but after going 10 years without getting called up, he wasn't anticipating the move. "I'm just thrilled that it did happen," Henderson said. "Last night, I really just didn't know what to do -- pack, call people. Just a bit of shock and just awe at the situation." Henderson struck out the first batter he faced while hurling a perfect sixth inning in his big league debut on Thursday. It was a rare Brewers highlight in their 8-2 loss to the Nationals. "My heart was in my throat. I've never had that before," he joked. "The warmups were all over the place, and then once the batter stepped in, it became a ballgame again and I settled in nicely." The batter was Nationals outfielder Roger Bernadina, a teammate of Henderson in 2005 and '06, when they were both Washington Minor Leaguers. "It was nice to face a familiar face right away," Henderson said. Armed with a fastball that comes in between 93-97 mph, Henderson also throws a slurve and a sinker. He said he hasn't used his changeup much pitching in a closing role for Nasvhille, and he also abandoned his windup this season, pitching strictly out of the stretch to improve his consistency. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said he hadn't carved out a specific role for Henderson yet, but if he does well, he could end up pitching in later innings. Henderson, who joins John Axford to make it two Canadian natives in the Milwaukee bullpen, said he doesn't have any expectations for what kind of reliever he'll be for the Brewers. "I'm just going to come in and do my job, whatever they want me to do," Henderson said. "I've done long relief, I've done short relief. I'll just do whatever they want right now."
Right-hander Shaun Marcum is scheduled to throw another bullpen session on Friday as he continues working back from a right elbow injury. It would be his second time throwing off the mound. The Brewers optioned infielder Jeff Bianchi back to Triple-A Nashville on Thursday as part of the moves to bring in Jonathan Lucroy and Jim Henderson. Bianchi was 0-for-12 in the big leagues.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.