John Axford is hoping to be a bullpen leader in his return to a closing role.
By RYAN KARTJEFS Wisconsin
MILWAUKEE — After being removed from his long-time role as closer July 16,
John Axford has been slowly working his way back from the mental issues that plagued the first half of his season.
But last weekend, Axford, who has remained patient through the entire process, made a statement to
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke that he was ready to return to his role.
"I think just based on some of the chaos and instability that's been happening down there," Axford told reporters, "I wanted to make sure I took a leadership role and not only accepted some of that chaos and instability was because of me in the first place, but I wanted to re-establish it and make sure that things were going to be straight down there again."
On Tuesday, that statement was justified, as Axford entered in the ninth inning and earned his first save in more than two weeks. Axford was in for just one out, as Manny Parra and Jim Henderson registered the first two outs. But Roenicke made it clear after the game that Axford's inclusion for the final out was a sign of things to come.
"This is a guy we would obviously like to be in that closer role," Roenicke said. "And the reason we took him out of it is to try and do what's best for him to get back into that role. I think when he was out of it, I think he pitched well enough to allow us the confidence that we think we can put him back in there now."
Roenicke left the possibility open that he may give save opportunities to other relievers, including Henderson, for the rest of the season. But it seems Axford is back to being the best option in that spot.
Since he was officially removed from being the closer 15 games ago, Axford has a 4.73 ERA. His season ERA is 5.19, with 19 saves and eight blown saves.
Segura dinged up: After both he and Cubs reliever Carlos Marmol fought for room to step on first base Tuesday night, Brewers rookie shortstop Jean Segura came up lame.
Roenicke didn't seem to think that the injury would be that serious at the time. But in the Milwaukee clubhouse before Wednesday's game, Segura was limping and out of the lineup, in favor of Cody Ransom. The team also recalled shortstop Jeff Bianchi from Nashville to take Randy Wolf's spot on the roster.
But according to Roenicke, Segura isn't likely to miss more than a game or two, including Wednesday's getaway game with the Cubs.
"He's limping," Roenicke said. "Today, he's going to see what he can do, whether I can use him out there or not. I don't expect it to be more than a couple days to get him back in there starting. … You never know how these guys are going to heal; when you're 22, you tend to heal a lot faster."
Segura had been a bright spot lately, as the recently acquired shortstop had flashed strong defense in recent games even if he's struggling at the plate. Since arriving in Milwaukee as part of the Zack Greinke trade, Segura is batting .200 with four RBI.
Marcum to return Saturday: Starting pitcher Shaun Marcum's return had been vaguely scheduled for this weekend against the Pirates, but on Wednesday Roenicke made it clear Marcum will start Saturday's game in Pittsburgh, five days after his third and final rehab start in Appleton.
Marcum will take Wolf's spot, allowing the rotation to keep the same pitching order. Roenicke said the ease of that adjustment was another reason releasing Wolf was the right move at this time.
"That's part of the reason why this timing is right now," Roenicke said. "We had to do something, whether we went to a six-man rotation or somebody got bumped out of there, this was part of that timing."