He arrived in Princeton in June, 2011 as a second-year professional pitcher with the impressive numbers in tow: a 2010 Gulf Coast League debut that featured a spotless 3-0 record to go along with a sparkling 1.59 ERA while also striking out 28 hitters versus only three walks in 22.2 innings of work.
Definition, however, though: still pending. Reason being is that Brandon Henderson proved to be a mixed bag of tricks in 2010 where his pitching role is concerned since these numbers were reached over nine appearances that was also dotted with two starts.
And, now after putting the 2011 season under his belt as a member of the Princeton Rays, the 19-year old left-hander is again still a plan in progress for 2012 as he just about evenly split his time between starting and relief outings for Princeton.
"In my mind, there's not much difference between starting and relieving. The biggest thing in relieving is that a pitcher has to be sharper right out of the gate since a lot of times he is walking into a situation with men already on base," said Henderson as part of a January 22 telephone interview. The comment is very relevant when you consider his 2011 season contained 13 appearances that consisted of seven starts and six relief stints.
He led off his 2011 season wearing the Princeton colors in fine shape, as a member of the starting rotation and recording two wins and two no decisions in his first four starts. The Chesnee, SC resident logged no less than five innings in all of the four outings while notching both wins on the road, June 29 at Danville and July 9 at Kingsport.
His fifth start this past summer was the one that led to seeing his labor for the balance of the season being divided between a starter and the bullpen. In Johnson City on July 15 against the powerful Cardinals, a five-inning performance yielded the bad news that he had allowed seven runs on eight hits, including a staggering four homers. Even at a dark moment in defeat, his first loss as a pro, Henderson fought it off by dwelling on how this excursion would benefit his future.
"Numbers-wise, that game looked bad but I didn't pitch that bad. It was my first time in a game trying to incorporate some new things in place that I was being taught. I just treated it as a building block for the future. It didn't look good at the moment but I felt it was the turning point for me for the rest of the season," revealed Henderson.
Pitching versus a team the caliber of Johnson City reinforced Henderson's thoughts when asked about the differences between Gulf Coast League and Appalachian League hitters.
"I think in the Appalachian League, the hitters were more patient and had a better plan for what they wanted to accomplish in their at-bats," assessed Henderson, who originally joined the Rays' organization as their 15th round selection in the 2010 MLB amateur draft.
As the 2011 season continued to unfold, many of the new things he was being shown began to take hold and by season's end, Henderson was being credited with the win in the P-Rays last victory of the season, an 8-4 home decision on August 25 versus the Bristol White Sox. He also finished the season the way he began, as a member of the starting rotation and received one more start in the season finale at Elizabethton.
Like many other pitchers that have taken the mound for the P-Rays over the past five seasons, Henderson can give you a two-word answer as the reason he showed progression during his time here: Marty DeMerritt.
"I enjoyed him a lot and talking with him about a lot of things. He changed some things with my windup and some other minor mechanical flaws. I just had to build repetition with these new techniques. By becoming able to recognize my mistakes and why they happened, it got to the point that I could correct myself immediately when a ball didn't go the way it should have," shared Henderson about DeMerritt's impact on his abilities on the mound.
In the end, with all the trials, tribulations, and sometimes uncertainties the 2011 summer held for Henderson, he was able to display a very respectable report card at season's end: a 4-2 record with a 4.30 ERA that delivered 44 strikeouts versus only 15 walks in 58.2 innings of work.
His ability to always remain with an even disposition is still on display as he prepares for the fast approaching spring training, and subsequent season that is 2012.
"I have spent the winter so far trying to get a little stronger as I got a little tired toward the end of last season. I have just started consistently throwing to get my arm strength ready. It doesn't matter where they send me in 2012. I'm just planning to have a good year wherever it is," Henderson concluded.
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