4/2/2014 1:33 A.M. ET
Brewers re-launch 'Fans First' initiative
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- Opening Day starter Yovani Gallardo was among more than 100 Brewers employees working the Miller Park concourses Tuesday to surprise fans with gifts and other perks as part of the club's "Fans First" program.
Among the surprises were seat upgrades, autographed baseballs, Brewers merchandise and an opportunity to watch the end of batting practice from the field. The "Fans First" program was first introduced in the wake of Ryan Braun's suspension last season.
"The good news for us is we have a community that's enormously supportive of this franchise," Brewers owner Mark Attanasio said Monday. "I've said it before and I'll say it again, as exhilarating as it was to win in 2011, it was heartening to see the way we pulled together last year in the face of adversity. The loyalty of people to this organization is truly outstanding. From folks who are taking tickets or selling tickets, to [club executives], everybody is really committed to and passionate about the organization. People really pulled together and to me, it felt as good -- maybe not the same kind of exhilaration -- but it felt as good as winning did in 2011.
"We have a lot going for us, but we don't rest on our laurels. We have a very hard-working group of people. Doug [Melvin, the Brewers' GM] didn't take a lot of vacations. The day before Thanksgiving, these guys are working. Christmas, these guys are working. We're working hard to keep everybody's trust and commitment."
Roenicke's plan for Henderson is open-ended
MILWAUKEE -- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke reiterated Tuesday that he envisions reinstalling Jim Henderson to the closer's role, and said the team's surprising Opening Day switch should not be a blow to Henderson's confidence.
"Believe me, that's what we talk about," Roenicke told reporters on Tuesday, a day after Francisco Rodriguez was Roenicke's pick to save the Brewers' 2-0 win over the Braves.
Rodriguez will continue to close games until further notice, while Henderson attempts to prove to Roenicke and other Brewers brass that he deserves the job back. He took a first step on Tuesday night, striking out Braves left fielder Justin Upton with a 95-mph fastball to strand a runner at second base in the eighth inning of the Brewers' 5-2 loss to the Braves.
After the game, Roenicke called it "better." Catcher Jonathan Lucroy called it "a lot better."
"I think this is the best way to get his confidence back," Roenicke said. "Say I put him into that [closer] role [Monday] night and his stuff really isn't ready and his confidence isn't there and he gives it up last night, what does that do to his confidence? So we're doing this to try to get him back, the best way we can and the fastest way we can. We think this is the best way to do it."
Henderson mostly threw 91-93 mph fastballs and touched 94 mph at the end of his final Spring Training tuneup against the Royals on Friday, shy of the 95.2 mph he averaged while converting 28 of 32 save opportunities last season, but Roenicke had said it's not all about velocity. Brewers coaches are also looking at opposing hitters' swings, which appeared comfortable throughout Henderson's spring, despite the fact that his final four appearances were scoreless.
Henderson hit all the right notes when talking to reporters in a victorious clubhouse on Monday night, conceding that his spring was sub-par and that he still had to work to pinpoint the timing of his delivery, and saying that he would accept whatever the coaching staff believes is best for the year.
"The ball is coming out better and better, so I'm going to hopefully continue that on to the season. As a competitor, I want to go out there and pitch every chance I get, but what was best for the team today was we got the win," Henderson said.
On Tuesday morning, in a regularly-scheduled radio appearance on 1250-AM WSSP, Henderson said he discussed the switch with Roenicke on Sunday, and that it was "a little shocking."
Asked on the air what his immediate role would be, Henderson said, "That's a mystery to me. We'll see how it goes. I think it'd be great to just get out there, I don't really care what inning right now. I just want to go out there and compete."
Roenicke has a plan in mind.
"Ideally, I would like to get him a couple of outings where the game wasn't on the line. That's ideal," Roenicke said. "I'm not saying we can do that, because if he has to pitch an inning I need him to pitch, then he'll pitch.
"But we want him as a closer. That's what we want. We want him as the guy he was last year, and that's what we're trying to get him to be. If a couple of outings helps him get back to where he was -- maybe it's more than a couple, maybe it's just one. I don't know."
Roenicke's son converts to coaching in Crew's system
MILWAUKEE -- The son of Brewers manager Ron Roenicke is following dad into the coaching ranks.
Lance Roenicke, 25, was informed at the end of Spring Training that the Brewers didn't have a spot for him in their Minor League system, which is relatively rich with outfielders. But farm director Reid Nichols offered him an opportunity to be a player/coach at Class A Wisconsin, with no plans to play unless the Timber Rattlers find themselves in a bind.
After discussing it with his dad, Lance accepted the job. Manager Matt Erickson's team is scheduled to open its season at home on Thursday, weather permitting.
"If he wants to do it, he's going to be a really good coach," Ron Roenicke said. "He knows where I was, going all over the country, and I don't know if that's going to be [what he wants]. But he would like to coach high school or college. If he loves this, maybe he'll do this."
Lance Roenicke was a 25th-round pick of the Brewers in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft and topped out last season at Class A Advanced Brevard County. He batted .243 with seven home runs and 41 RBIs in 123 Minor League games in 2012 and '13.
"After the first day, he started talking a little bit more, and then a couple of days later, he was really appreciative of having the opportunity to play professionally," Ron Roenicke said. "That was his dream. You put all this time and work into doing it, and he got the opportunity to do it a couple of years, so it was great."
• Rickie Weeks started at second base Tuesday as Roenicke stacked his lineup with right-handed hitters against Braves lefty Alex Wood, and will probably stick with a platoon between Weeks and left-handed hitting Scooter Gennett for the time being.
Last year, Gennett batted .154 (6-for-39) against left-handed pitching. But after the Brewers' win on Opening Day, he was 1-for-1.
"He keeps getting better and better against lefties," Roenicke said. "Last year, at the beginning, he really struggled, and then at the end of the season last year, he started to hit the ball a little bit better. I think the more he sees them, he's going to hit them. The guy can hit, so he'll hit."
• The Brewers' Opening Day shutout victory over the Braves was especially notable considering it took Milwaukee 67 games last season to blank an opponent. They were the last Major League team in 2013 with a shutout.
• The Brewers will face a trio of World Series-tested pitchers during their weekend Interleague Series in Boston. It's Marco Estrada vs. Jake Peavy on Friday in the Fenway Park opener, Wily Peralta vs. Clay Buchholz on Saturday and Yovani Gallardo vs. Jon Lester on Sunday in a matchup of Opening Day starters.