Jim Henderson cracks Mets' Opening Day roster

By: Jonathan Hodgson

Canadian Baseball Network

Jim Henderson is back in the major leagues.

The 33-year-old right-hander from Calgary, Alta was informed by the New York Mets on Friday that he has made Opening Day roster and will be in the Mets bullpen on Sunday when they visit Kansas City for the anticipated World Series rematch with the Royals.

The Mets brought Henderson into the fold in the off-season on a minor-league deal with an invite to spring training giving him the opportunity to audition for a spot. Manager Terry Collins was impressed when he saw Henderson pitch against the Mets as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers in 2012-14 and gave Henderson a shot, believing that when healthy, the 6’5 right-hander could return to the dominant form of his 28-save season with the Brewers in 2013.

Henderson took full advantage of his opportunity.  Coming off of 2014 shoulder surgery that led to an entire 2015 season in the minors with the Brewers, the first box to check off was to demonstrate to the Mets organization, and to himself, that he was healthy. Henderson left no doubts that he is all-systems-go in 2016, making 12 spring appearances with 13 strikeouts in 10.2 innings and a 1.69 ERA. After dipping to the low-90s last year, his velocity has returned to the mid-to-upper 90s.

Brought in on a minor league contract with no guarantees, and faced with the challenge playing his way on to the defending NL Champions, Henderson flat out earned the job.

Henderson reached the majors for the first time in 2012 with Milwaukee after toiling for ten seasons in the minor leagues as a former 26th round draft choice out of Tennessee Wesleyan by the Montreal Expos back in 2003. His path has also included tenures with Canada’s senior national team at the 2011 Pan-Am Games and the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

When he made his MLB debut for the Brewers against the Nationals on July 26, 2012, Henderson became the first alum of the Okotoks Dawgs to play in the major leagues.  He was an original member of the Dawgs Youth Academy in 1995, and was on the inaugural Dawgs summer-collegiate team in 2003, the year he was drafted by the Expos.

 Over parts of three seasons with the Brewers, Henderson pitched in 111 games, working to a 3.44 ERA and 137 strikeouts over 102 innings with 31 saves and 54 games finished.  His best season came in 2013, when he took over as the teamès closer and recorded 28 saves while sporting a 2.70 ERA in 61 appearances, racking up 75 strikeouts in 60 innings.

Henderson’s 2014 campaign was cut short as he was forced to undergo the second shoulder surgery of his career. He returned to action in 2015, beginning with stops in the advanced-A Florida State League and double-A before spending the majority of the season with the Colorado Springs Sky Sox of the triple-A Pacific Coast League.

Faced with pitching in the hitter’s paradise of Colorado Springs and the PCL, Henderson worked to a 4.55 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 29.2 innings.  The bigger concern however was the drop in velocity following surgery.  Needing to broaden his repertoire, Henderson worked on a changeup to compliment his fastball and slider combination.

This was the second time that Henderson has had to work his way back up the minor league ladder. He reached triple-A with the Cubs in 2007 and 2008 before surgery put a sudden stop to any plans of pitching at Wrigley Field with the north-siders.  He was released after the 2008 season and signed to a minor league contract with the Brewers and had to begin the climb up the ladder again, starting 2009 in the class-A Midwest League, a climb he completed in 2012.

The precise role Henderson will fill for the Mets is unclear, and it is likely up to him to perform and make a role for himself.  And that is just how Jimmy Henderson likes it.  Throughout his entire journey, nothing has ever been handed to him and he has had to fight for everything he has gotten.  He continued that fight this spring, and earned himself his first Opening Day roster spot, and the second major league chapter of his great story.