Milwaukee Brewers players make their way to the practice fields for a spring training baseball workout Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Milwaukee Brewersâ€™ Kyle Lohse poses for a picture during the teams photo day Friday, Feb. 27, 2015, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
PHOENIX — Milwaukee Brewers reliever Jim Henderson is getting an early chance to prove that he is on his way to returning from a right shoulder injury.
The former closer is one of five pitchers scheduled to throw Wednesday in the Brewers' first spring training game, against the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Mike Fiers will start, with minor leaguers Taylor Jungmann, Corey Knebel, David Goforth and Brooks Hall also slated to face the Panthers.
For Henderson to be in that group is an important step considering how the last 12 months unfolded.
Henderson was a feel-good story in 2013, finally emerging after a decade-long minor league odyssey to earn a job as Milwaukee's closer. He saved 28 games that season while posting a 2.70 ERA.
But Henderson never felt quite right in camp last season. Ultimately, he lost the closer job on opening day to Francisco Rodriguez.
It was supposed to be a temporary move, but Rodriguez went on to finish with 44 saves. Henderson went 2-1 with a 7.15 ERA in 14 games before he was sidelined for good on May 2.
"It was tough," Henderson said. "Right from the get-go, I felt that the arm wasn't quite right. The problem was, I tried to battle through it a little too much."
He had arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder in mid-August and spent the entire offseason rehabbing at the team's Phoenix facility with the goal of being ready for camp.
"He wanted to do it," manager Ron Roenicke said Tuesday. "I think it's a great way to find out where he is."
Veteran right-hander Kyle Lohse will start Thursday when the Brewers take on the Angels in Tempe. Assuming Lohse doesn't get hurt, that would put him on track to start April 6 when the Brewers open the regular season against Colorado at Miller Park.
Roenicke wasn't quite ready to make that announcement.
Lohse has made two opening day starts in his career, in 2008 and 2012. He, too, wasn't ready to jump to conclusions with four weeks left in camp, and wouldn't say if he had been approached already by Roenicke.
"How about we answer that question when something is official?" Lohse said.
Fiers and Jimmy Nelson would round out the rotation. Nelson, a touted prospect, was moved into the starting five when Yovani Gallardo was dealt to Texas in January.
The Brewers are confident in their projected rotation, though they realize they're short on starting pitching depth.
They're hopeful that Tyler Thornburg has fully recovered from a right elbow injury that kept him out the last five months of the season. He was ahead of schedule when camp began, and the plan was to stretch him out for a long-relief and spot-starting role.
Right-handers Michael Blazek and Jungmann figure to open the season at Triple-A Colorado Springs and could be called on should the need arise.
NOTES: Rodriguez has yet to join the Brewers while final details of his contract are ironed out. Rodriguez is also still awaiting a work visa before he can leave his native Venezuela to join the team. Milwaukee did clear a spot on its 40-man roster for Rodriguez on Tuesday by sending Brooks Hall outright to Triple-A Colorado Springs. ... The team announced agreements on one-year deals with 2B Scooter Gennett and SS Jean Segura, and renewed the contract of LHP Will Smith. ... All-Star C Jonathan Lucroy won't play Wednesday. He is likely to sit out game action for at least a few more weeks while he recovers from a strained right hamstring.