Indians' Axford removed from closer's role after rough start
MAY 10, 2014 6:19p ET
Manager Terry Francona told reporters that he informed the struggling Axford of the decision before Saturday night's 7-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Axford (1-3) has nine saves in 11 opportunities, posting a 4.91 ERA with 15 strikeouts, 13 walks and three homers in 14 2/3 innings (17 games). The right-hander has noticeably struggled as of late, allowing runs in three out of his last four appearances.
"We talked to Ax," Francona said. "And we told him that, 'Hey, man, for now, we're going to kind of get you out of that role and try to get you in some situations where we can get you on a roll again.' That's not going to happen tonight (Saturday), because he's pitched a lot."
"The one thing I assured them is that when we get to the ninth, whoever's pitching, we're not going to have four guys warming up because we think you're good," Francona said.
Axford, who signed a one-year, $4.5 million deal in December, struggled in 2012 and '13 with the Brewers, which prompted a late-August trade to the Cardinals last season. He appeared to turn things around while in St. Louis and had success pitching for the Cards in the World Series.
Francona said he hopes that Axford will be able to return to the closer's role in the near future.
"I told him numerous times, because I mean it, the goal is to get him back as our closer, and I think he understands that," Francona said. "I don't want him to do it in like two days because I don't want some Band-Aid. I want him when he gets it, to take it and stay there."
How long that takes is anybody's guess, but Axford doesn't seem to think he's far from getting back on track.
"I've thrown a lot recently," Axford said after Friday's game. "You can only throw 25-30 pitches so many times in an inning before it starts to catch up to you. I just need that clean, quick, one-two-three inning and get back on it."
Axford's bad stretch started in the finale of three-game home series with the Chicago White Sox on Sunday, May 4. He gave up a three-run homer to Dayan Viciedo in the ninth inning of a 4-3 loss.
The following day, Axford surrendered a solo homer to Eduardo Escobar in the 10th inning of a 1-0 loss to Minnesota.
Then on Friday, with the Indians leading the host Rays 6-2, Axford entered to start the bottom of the ninth. He struck out the first two batters, but then gave up a double, a walk, an RBI double and a walk to bring the potential winning run to the plate with the bases loaded.
That's when Francona called on Allen, who picked up his first save after retiring James Loney on a fly out on on a 3-2 pitch.