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What We Learned: Will Smith is in a sticky situation

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Will Smith got himself into trouble last night, and Jim Henderson could be nearing the end of his time as a Brewer. We discuss these stories and more in today's What We Learned.

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Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday night's game between the Braves and Brewers started out as a tough pitcher's duel. However, things took an interesting turn in the seventh inning. After Matt Garza allowed three singles to give the Braves a 2-1 lead, Craig Counsell called upon Will Smith to stabilize things before they got out of hand. Smith came in and pitched to one batter before Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez called for the umpires to inspect Will Smith. A foreign substance (later identified as sunscreen and rosin) was found on Smith's arm, and he was ejected for having the substance on him. While it seems like an open and shut case, it goes a lot deeper than the rules. This situation brings the "unwritten rules of baseball" back into the light, where it's acceptable for pitchers to use these substances.

As Brewers fans, how should we react to this situation? Well, let's start out with some basics. Will Smith was using a foreign substance on his arm. By MLB rules, Fredi Gonzalez had the right to ask the umpires to check Smith for the substance. The punishment for finding a foreign substance is ejection. By the letter of the rules, Smith is the one in the wrong here. He violated MLB rules and the situation was handled by the book.

With that said, where the issues may come in with players and coaches is with the "unwritten rules". For those of you who aren't aware, the "unwritten rules" are the rules and guidelines not recorded in any book, but generally agreed upon among baseball players and coaches. One of those involves the use of foreign substances. Officially, the teams have to be against it. Unofficially, it's used more often than you realize.

Players have their combinations that they use to get a better grip on the ball. Some pitchers wear a little extra sunscreen, grab it as they need it and mix it with rosin. Some pitchers use extra bug spray. Occasionally, a pitcher will hide a sticky substance somewhere on their body out of sight. It happens a lot, but most players and coaches say nothing because their own players do the same thing. In fact, as much as it helps the pitchers, some batters are even ok with it. A better grip means better control and less of a chance of getting hit by a pitch.

The question here is, should the Braves have called it out? While they were within the written rules, the unwritten rules may have been broken (but it's hard to know since they're not written down). Maybe Smith deserved it because the spot was so obvious. No one cared he was using it, but it had to be called out since it was a blatant violation. Smith was angry as he left the game, and so were some of his teammates.

What's going to happen next after all of this? Well, we should find out at some point today that Will Smith received an automatic 10-game suspension for having a foreign substance on his body. There's still three games left in the series between the Brewers and Braves, and tensions may be higher after yesterday's events. There may be some retaliation, though many Brewers fans believe that none of the pitchers should retaliate by hitting Braves batters. We don't know what Counsell's philosophy is here, and he may not have one yet. We will have to wait for today's game to see how the Brewers handle it.

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Prior to the Smith ejection yesterday, I had written up a long piece on Jim Henderson to start today's What We Learned. However, that got knocked down after the whole situation with Smith, but I didn't want to get rid of it, so it's an extra-long start to today's post.

It's been a rough year for Jim Henderson. Last year, he went into spring training as the assumed closer. Yesterday, he was outrighted to Triple-A Colorado Springs, removing him from the 40-man roster completely. How did Jim Henderson go from the closer role to off the 40-man roster in just over a year? Let's look at the timeline for him.

  • September 27, 2013: Jim Henderson records his final save of the 2013 season. He had a bit of a rough September, but finished the 2013 season with a 2.70 ERA, 3.58 FIP, 11.3 K/9, and 28 saves.
  • February 7, 2014: The Brewers sign Francisco Rodriguez to another one-year deal. Ron Roenicke confirms that Henderson will remain the closer following this signing.
  • March 28, 2014: Henderson makes his final appearance of the spring, pitching an inning with two walks and two strikeouts. He finishes the spring allowing six runs, five walks, and seven strikeouts in nine innings. There's some concern as Henderson's fastball hasn't shown the same velocity as in previous years.
  • March 31, 2014: An Opening Day crowd at Miller Park is surprised to find Francisco Rodriguez enter the game for the save. After the game, manager Ron Roenicke announces that after Jim Henderson's rough spring, Rodriguez is the closer for now.
  • May 2, 2014: After allowing five runs in a relief appearance against the Reds, Henderson is placed on the 15-day disabled list with shoulder inflammation. Henderson admits he had been pitching with it for a few weeks.
  • May 23, 2014: Henderson begins a rehab assignment with Double-A Huntsville. He is shut down three days later when the shoulder soreness returns.
  • July 3, 2014: Following another month of rest, Henderson begins a rehab assignment at rookie-level Arizona. Over the next month, his rehab takes him to Huntsville & Triple-A Nashville. However, he is shut back down at the end of the rehab assignment.
  • August 15, 2014: The Brewers announce that Henderson is done for the season and will require shoulder surgery. He has the surgery performed four days later.
  • January 25, 2015: At Brewers On Deck, Henderson says that he will begin bullpen sessions in a few days and hopes to be ready for Opening Day.
  • February 28, 2015: Henderson throws against live batters for the first time since shoulder surgery. He makes his first appearance of spring training a week later.
  • March 21, 2015: Still struggling to find his velocity, Henderson is transferred to the minor-league camp to continue pitching for the remainder of spring.
  • April 4, 2015: Henderson begins the 2015 season on the disabled list and remains at extended Spring Training.
  • April 17, 2015: Henderson begins a rehab assignment at High-A Brevard County. He is eventually sent to Double-A Biloxi and then Triple-A Colorado Springs.
  • May 13, 2015: Henderson is officially activated from the 25-man roster and immediately optioned to Triple-A Colorado Springs.
  • May 21, 2015: Jim Henderson is outrighted from the 40-man roster by the Brewers.

Is this the end of the road for Jim Henderson? We don't know for sure yet. He could still work his way back on to the Brewers 40-man roster by pitching well in Colorado Springs. However, he has some work to do if he wants to get back to that point. The biggest thing he needs to show is improved velocity. If he can get that back, he will have a shot at a comeback. However, at the age of 32, the odds are against him. We will have to wait and see how he pitches in the minors.

Yesterday's Results

Braves 10, Brewers 1

I already covered the most interesting part of yesterday's game at the start of today's post, so let's discuss everything else that happened here. Matt Garza and Julio Teheran matched each other in pitching through the first six innings. Garza allowed an RBI single in the first, and Teheran a sacrifice fly in the fourth. Then, the pitching staff unraveled in the seventh inning. Garza allowed three of the four batters he faced to reach base. Counsell brought in Will Smith, who pitched to one batter and then was ejected. Neal Cotts came in, pitched to one batter and allowed a single, and then Michael Blazek came in. Blazek allowed the next four batters to reach before ending the inning, but the damage was done. The Braves recorded seven runs in the inning. They would tack on two more in the eighth to reach the final score of 10-1.

Brewers News & Notes
Minor League Update
Team Level Record Yesterday This Weekend
Colorado Springs Sky Sox AAA 15-24 Salt Lake 8, Colorado Springs 2 Friday: Colorado Springs @ Salt Lake
Saturday: Colorado Springs @ Salt Lake
Sunday: Colorado Springs @ Salt Lake
Biloxi Shuckers AA 25-16 Biloxi 5, Birmingham 4 Friday: Birmingham vs. Biloxi (@ Huntsville)
Saturday: Birmingham vs. Biloxi (@ Huntsville)
Sunday: Birmingham vs. Biloxi (@ Huntsville)
Brevard County Manatees A+ 17-23 Fort Myers 1, Brevard County 0 Friday: Brevard County @ Fort Myers
Saturday: Brevard County @ Fort Myers
Sunday: Brevard County @ Fort Myers
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers A 11-30 Burlington 6, Wisconsin 3 Friday: Wisconsin @ Kane County
Saturday: Wisconsin @ Kane County
Sunday: Wisconsin @ Kane County

News & Notes

NL Central Update
Team W L
Cardinals 27 14
Cubs 23 17
Reds 18 22
Pirates 18 22
Brewers 15 27
  • Mets 5, Cardinals 0
  • Cubs 3, Padres 0
  • Reds and Pirates had the day off.

This Weekend's Division Games

  • Mets @ Pirates
    Friday: Noah Syndergaard vs. Gerrit Cole - 6:05 pm
    Saturday: Matt Harvey vs. AJ Burnett - 3:05 pm
    Sunday: Jon Niese vs. Francisco Liriano - 12:35 pm
  • Reds @ Indians
    Friday: Mike Leake vs. Carlos Carrasco - 6:10 pm
    Saturday: Anthony DeSclafani vs. Corey Kluber - 3:10 pm
    Sunday: Johnny Cueto vs. Trevor Bauer - 12:10 pm
  • Cardinals @ Royals
    Friday: Lance Lynn vs. Chris Young - 7:05 pm
    Saturday: John Lackey vs. Danny Duffy - 6:15 pm
    Sunday: Michael Wacha vs. Edinson Volquez - 1:10 pm
  • Cubs @ Diamondbacks
    Friday: Jon Lester vs. Josh Collmenter - 8:40 pm
    Saturday: Jake Arrieta vs. Rubby De La Rosa - 9:10 pm
    Sunday: Jason Hammel vs. Jeremy Hellickson - 3:10 pm

Around Baseball

Roster News

This Weekend's Action

Three games remain in this weekend's series against the Atlanta Braves. Here are the remaining matchups for this weekend. (NOTE: Today's Brewers-Braves game is the MLB TV Free Game of the Day.)

Friday: Wily Peralta vs. Alex Wood - 6:35 pm
Saturday: Mike Fiers vs. Shelby Miller - 3:10 pm
Sunday: Jimmy Nelson vs. Mike Foltynewicz - 12:35 pm