Savvy Axelrod has impressed Reds in two starts

Dylan Axelrod's day lasted just five innings but they were five shutout innings as he earned his first win with the Reds, 7-2, on Thursday.

Dylan Axelrod is filling in for injured Homer Bailey in the Reds starting rotation.

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CINCINNATI -- Dylan Axelrod's first two innings didn't foretell of a very long or very successful afternoon. It took him 58 pitches to dispatch of the first nine Chicago Cubs he faced and although he had kept the Cubs off the scoreboard he had to work extra to do so.

Axelrod's day lasted just five innings but they were five shutout innings as he earned his first win with the Reds, 7-2, on Thursday. Axelrod allowed just two hits as he had his second successful start with the Reds since being acquired from the Chicago White Sox for cash on July 17.

The White Sox organization was home for Axelrod, 29, for the past five years. He had been up to the big league club and down to the minors. He was pitching for Triple-A Charlotte when the Reds acquired him.

"I was seeing a barber on the All-Star break," said Axelrod. "I had been with the White Sox for a long time. I got a call and I was like 'wow'. It's crazy, but at the same time I was excited because I felt like I needed a new team, a new change of scenery to help me invigorate my career a little bit."

His career with the White Sox consisted of 48 games, including 30 starts. His ERA was a rather robust 5.36. Axelrod was 4-11 with a 5.68 ERA in 30 games with Chicago last season. He started this season at Charlotte, and then went to the Reds' Triple-A affiliate in Louisville.

Axelrod made five starts for the Bats, going 2-1 with a 3.06 ERA and he earned International League Player of the Week honors once. He was called up for a start against Colorado when Homer Bailey went on the disabled list with a flexor mass strain. He left after six innings with a 5-2 lead on Aug. 17, giving up two solo home runs. The Rockies came back to win that game 10-5 on a disastrous Sunday doubleheader for the Reds at Coors Field.

Axelrod was originally scheduled to start the night before but a water main break outside of Coors Field forced a postponement and the scheduling of the doubleheader. Logistics of the rotation forced the Reds to option Axelrod back to Louisville but he was recalled for this start. He's going to stay in the rotation for as long as Bailey is on the DL.

"I think he's got some savvy," said manager Bryan Price. "He's challenged hitters in the strike zone. He's got a nice little sinker-slider combination, a nice changeup and an overhand curveball that's a usable pitch. He got the ability to compete. He's not overpowering but I think he knows what makes him successful, and today he had to make an in-game adjustment to be more aggressive with his fastball and he did."

Axelrod walked Chris Coghlan on 11 pitches to open the game. He retired the next three hitters in a row but had 28 pitches thrown at the end of the first inning. He threw another 30 pitches in the second innings but left two runners on after rookie sensation Jorge Soler led off the inning with a double. Axelrod struck out eight batters, including Arismendy Alcantara in the second inning after Alcantara had fouled off seven pitches in the at-bat. One of those fouls hooked foul deep down the right field line.

The bottom line was that Axelrod kept the Cubs off the board and made the adjustments he needed to make. He retired the final five batters he faced and 10 of the last 12.

"They fouled off a lot of pitches with two strikes and he had trouble putting them away early on but you look at his final line and he ended up with eight strikeouts, so he figured it out," said catcher Devin Mesoraco. "He seemed very composed. This isn't his first time around the block. He knows what to expect. He's a very composed, a very calm guy. I look forward to working with him the rest of the way. As much as an opportunity as he gets, I think he'll be good."

Axelrod's first impression on his new bosses, most notably Price, has been a good one. The manager told him before Thursday's game that Axelrod was back where he belonged, that if not for the water main issue in Colorado that Axelrod never would have been sent back down to Louisville. Price said Axelrod will not be on a short leash, where one bad start takes away this opportunity.

"Being new to this organization, for (Price) to say that and give me that opportunity means a lot," said Axelrod. "Having him stand behind me, it's encouraging and gives you confidence. I'm happy he said that."