Couple that with a strong overall year based on 72 innings of a 2.25 ERA, whiffing 72 and walking 27, good enough for a 3.46 xFIP, and it's no wonder why the Marlins are interested in bringing Hensley back.
The 31-year-old, however, may be serving in a completely different role for 2011.
"I already told [Hensley] I like him better as a starter or a middle reliever than a closer," manager Edwin Rodriguez told the Palm Beach Post . "But it's good to know as a player, as a manager, you have a guy you can rely on to close games."
Given Hensley doesn't crack 90 mph with his fastball, it's easy to see why Rodriguez is iffy using him as a closer. In fact, the Marlins planned to have Hensley fill a rotation spot until acquiring Nate Robinson just before the start of the regular season.
"I love starting, and if I go back to it that's obviously fine," Hensley, who will be eligible for arbitration for the first time after the season, said. "But I kind of enjoy what I'm doing now too."
The righty is in the middle of his first season that doesn't involve starting. He's spent the majority of the season as a middle reliever, being elevated to the job of closer after Leo Nunez lost his gig.
Hensley's experience comes in the rotation, spending parts of 2005-08 with the Padres making 40 starts and 66 relief appearances. Overall, he had a 4.09 ERA in four years with San Diego. The bulk of his starts came in 2006 with 29 starts along with eight jogs from the bullpen, notching a 3.71 ERA. Hensley spent all of 2009 in the minors between the Astros and Marlins, making 19 starts for the Fish's Triple-A team.
Being a starter is clearly something Hensley loves, but he realizes that it may not be in his best interest.
"For the longevity of my career it might be a better fit," he noted. "I'm also realistic about my body and going out there and throwing 200 innings every year... that can take its toll. Maybe as a career decision, [closing] might be a better move."
Florida may move forward with Hensley as closer if they don't import any options. Nunez will likely make around $4 million in arbitration. Coming off a year where Nunez clearly regressed in the second half, the Marlins may not be prepared to give Nunez $4 million, clearing the way for Hensley to keep his job.-- Evan Brunell
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