SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Yasiel Puig's loss was a big gain for one of the bench candidates in Brewers camp.
Elian Herrera has impressed Brewers coaches with his play at shortstop so far this spring, including a series of athletic plays against his former Dodgers teammates Saturday in a rare start at the position. The best came at Puig's expense, when Herrera dived toward the hole between shortstop and third base, jumped to his feet and threw out Puig by a full step.
"There's not many guys who can make that play he made yesterday," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "Not just to dive and catch it, but to get up there that quick and throw that strong over to first base. I'm really happy to see that play."
Herrera has mostly manned second base, left field and center field in his professional career, but he was urged to focus on shortstop by Brewers officials after the team claimed him off waivers from the Dodgers in early November. By the end of the Dominican Winter League season, he was the regular shortstop for Estrellas de Oriente.
"That was my position when I was a kid," he said. "But it was a while. I was like 12, 13 years old. … They already know I can play second base, third base, but [shortstop] is the one that's really needed right now, and that's where I focus right now."
Herrera prides himself on defensive versatility and said he owed a debt of gratitude to former Minor League manager Carlos Subero, who was hired by the Brewers over the winter to manage Double-A Huntsville.
"This is kind of like my dad here," Herrera said.
Herrera is different from incumbent utility man Jeff Bianchi in that Herrera is also a true outfielder, and he can play center field with proficiency. Non-roster invitee Irving Falu, another utility option who got the start at shortstop Sunday, is also a more natural outfielder.
"Somewhere, we need to get them in the outfield, but I'm really interested to see what happens on the infield first," Roenicke said. "The more important role for them is going to be the infield. If they can go out there in the outfield, yeah, it's valuable, but … if we're going to only go with one utility infielder, shortstop is a huge role that you have to be able to do at a high level."
Henderson quietly adding to arsenal
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Brewers closer Jim Henderson has yet to appear in a Cactus League game, but he and manager Ron Roenicke each said it was no cause for concern. The role does not require a heavy Spring Training workload, for one, and Henderson has preferred to work amid the privacy of the back mounds at Maryvale Baseball Park because he is developing a new pitch, Roenicke said.
Roenicke was not merely referring to the slider refinements that Henderson mentioned earlier in camp. He was talking about an entirely new pitch.
"They can see it," Roenicke said, referring to rival scouts, "when it happens."
Henderson enjoyed his first full Major League season as a 30-year-old in 2013, assuming closer duties after only one week and going on to log 28 saves in 32 chances with an overall 2.70 ERA. According to FanGraphs.com, he threw all fastballs (77 percent, with an average velocity of 95.3 mph) and sliders (23 percent, 85.6 mph).
Presumably, an addition to Henderson's arsenal would help against left-handed hitters. They managed a .786 OPS against him last season, compared with .475 for right-handed hitters. Six of the eight home runs off Henderson were produced by left-handed hitters.
"I think we'll mess around with some stuff during the spring here," Henderson said as camp opened. "Whether it's a new pitch, whether it's just defining my slider a bit more. My slider was really good in the beginning of the year last year, then it kind of [fell off]. … That's one of the nice things, too, about this spring for me, is that I can afford to make some mistakes out there in Spring Training and not be worried about it too much. We'll hopefully have something set in stone by the end of the spring."
Henderson threw some live batting practice Sunday while the rest of the Brewers played the Rockies in Scottsdale. His next step could be a Cactus League game.
"There's no reason to ramp him up quick," Roenicke said. "He's been working on some things, some pitches, so we backed him off."
Aramis inches toward spring game action
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Still recovering from offseason surgery, Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez said Saturday that while he was seven to 10 days from appearing in Spring Training games, he remained on schedule to be ready for the start of the regular season.
The 35-year-old had a procedure in early January to remove a non-malignant polyp from his colon.
"We're going to take it easy at the beginning," Ramirez said. "But I told [manager Ron Roenicke] that towards the end, I want to play a lot. I'll probably be playing three [games in a row], one off, four, one off. I'm going to play a lot."
Ramirez indicated he had plenty of Spring Training to prepare for an important season. He is entering the final guaranteed season of his contract with the Brewers and has said he wants to continue his playing career beyond 2014.