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Brewers bullpen showing signs of promise

Brewers bullpen showing signs of promise

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers' bullpen entered Sunday on a hot streak, but manager Ron Roenicke said he was still feeling out roles for his various relievers.

"We're just starting the season and I'm trying to figure out our bullpen and how to use them, and they're trying to figure out how I'm going to use them," Roenicke said. "It's still a little early.

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"I definitely like the way [Michael] Gonzalez is throwing the ball lately. [Tom] Gorzelanny has been pretty good; originally we were thinking [of a long relief role] for him, maybe against left-handers, and all of a sudden I'm pitching him in the eighth inning. So I'll try to figure that one out. It's still ongoing. [Brandon] Kintzler looked so good [on Saturday], I feel like the next time we have an opportunity and we're tight and late in a game, I have no problem using him. I think it's still too early to figure out where exactly they're all going to fit in."

Recent signs were encouraging. In the eight games prior to Sunday's series finale against the Cubs, including six straight victories, Brewers relievers were 3-0 with a 1.46 ERA, three saves and a .188 opponents' average (18-for-85).

"This is good stuff right now," Roenicke said.

Burke Badenhop, another reliever lauded by Roenicke for recent results, said much of the credit belonged to Jim Henderson, the right-hander installed as closer after John Axford was temporarily removed from the role. Henderson did not give up a run in seven of his first eight outings.

Roenicke has been clear -- he said so again Sunday morning -- that the goal is restoring Axford to the closer's role.

"It's a confidence thing," Badnehop said. "And not only confidence, but you see a pitcher pitching good, and you want to go out there and pitch good as well. … Someone has to take the lead, and I think Jim has kind of done that. You can see guys falling into place.

"'Ax' has looked good in his last couple [outings] too, and we're definitely going to have to have him. We're going to need everybody going forward."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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