After ten years in the minors, Jim Henderson made the most of his first major league opportunity in 2012.
MVBrewers is a player-by-player look at the most valuable members of the 2012 Brewers, as voted on by you. Here's our top ten:
Honorable Mentions: Martin Maldonado, Rickie Weeks, Jim Henderson
The series now continues with Honorable Mentions, to cover some of the Brewers we've missed. This is the third installment in that segment. You can see all the player profiles in the Most Valuable Brewers 2012 section. The series continues tomorrow with the fourth Honorable Mention.
In early 2009, you have to think Jim Henderson was just about ready to give up the dream.
He was 26 years old, six years removed from being drafted by the Expos and was playing for his third organization. He had spent 2008 pitching for AAA Iowa in the Cubs organization, but signed as a minor league free agent with the Brewers and fell three rungs down the ladder. He found himself closing games for low-A Wisconsin.
Henderson kept pitching, though, and eventually it paid off. He split 2009 between Wisconsin, Brevard County and Huntsville. He was back in Huntsville again in 2010, and started the year there one more time in 2011. On June 21 he made his 300th career appearance in the minors, striking out the side in a save for AAA Nashville.
About a month later, Henderson finally got the call. He made his major league debut for the Brewers on July 26 as the latest attempt to reinforce a tattered bullpen and pitched a scoreless sixth inning in a 8-2 loss to the Nationals. Two days later he pitched a scoreless eighth, and he recorded a key out in the next day's game too.
Henderson was only making his seventh major league appearance when he was called upon to pitch the ninth inning in a game against the Reds on August 7, and recorded his first save. It was only the second time he had ever pitched in a major league win.
John Axford eventually retook the closer role but Henderson filled a key role in the bullpen down the stretch, posting a 3.52 ERA over 30.2 innings and striking out 45 opposing batters while walking just 13. He allowed just one home run in his rookie campaign and in a span of three months he's gone from minor league lifer to likely key member of the 2013 Brewers.
Henderson recorded three saves this season, including two on back-to-back days. He was called in on short notice for the second one on August 8 after the Brewers scored two runs in the bottom of the eighth to take a 3-2 lead against the Reds. A one run lead against the future NL Central champions would be a challenge for anyone to protect, but Henderson worked around a walk and struck out two to nail down the victory. Here's the final out:
Henderson has racked up just over two months of major league service time. Even if he sticks in the big leagues full time he won't be eligible for arbitration until the 2016 season and free agency until 2019.