MILWAUKEE —One day after his worst outing in a difficult season, Canadian
John Axford lost his job as the Milwaukee Brewers closer. Knowshon Moreno Jersey . Manager Ron Roenicke
said before Tuesday nights game against St. Louis that Francisco Rodriguez will
be handling ninth-inning duties while Axford, from Simcoe, Ont., tries to get
his confidence back in lower-pressure situations. “Its always difficult when
youre talking about a guy that we feel the way we do about Ax,” Roenicke said.
“We still remember what he did last year for us. So yeah, its always hard to do.
But it is the right thing to do, so I didnt feel bad about doing it. I felt good
about doing it, because I feel like this is the best way to get him back.”
Handed a two-run lead against the Cardinals on Monday night, Axford allowed
three runs in the ninth inning and the Brewers lost 3-2. Axford has 16 saves in
22 chances this season, struggling to find the dominant form he showed in 2011.
“It was a decision I kind of expected after yesterday, yesterdays performance,”
Axford said. “Its frustrating the way things have been going this year, so maybe
itll be a breath of fresh air to step back a little bit, try and get back into
the swing of things the way I was last year.” Axford said he wasnt surprised by
the decision and didnt try to talk Roenicke out of it because he wanted to put
the team first. And Axford acknowledged that his recent struggles have shaken
his confidence. “Id be lying if I said it was the same as its always been,”
Axford said. “Today was actually one of the rougher days Ive ever had.
Generally, Im pretty good about letting go after blown saves or losses or
anything like that. But yesterday, just because I couldnt feel anything—I
literally, as I told (pitching coach Rick) Kranitz, it literally seemed like I
was pitching with new mechanics and never threw a curveball before.” Axford
played a critical role in the Brewers run to the NL championship series last
season, saving 46 games in 48 chances. Axford had 49 consecutive saves between
April 24, 2011 and May 4, 2012—the fourth-longest streak in history. But
Axford has struggled since then, and his control issues were at their worst in
Monday nights meltdown. “He was at a point where he was really frustrated,”
Roenicke said. “He said that was the worst he has felt on the mound as far as
having a feeling where the balls going. With the fastball or the breaking ball,
he had no idea where it was going.” Rodriguez, who has 292 career saves, has
been primarily an eighth-inning setup man since coming to the Brewers in a trade
last season. He is 2-4 with a 3.67 ERA this season with one save—April 10 at
Chicago. He has not allowed a run in his past five appearances. Roenicke said
Rodriguezs fastball has been “really good,” while hes still trying to throw his
slider as consistently as he has in the past. And Rodriguez knows how to close.
“Its certainly what he wants to do,” Roenicke said. “And he is—hes a closer.
Hes a great closer. I think Frankies such a professional that whether I have him
setting up or whether I have him closing, he knows how important he is to our
team to win.” While the Brewers scramble to try to get back into contention,
Roenicke doesnt want Axford to be seen as a scapegoat. “I didnt think about it
that way, and I dont want him to think about it that way,” Roenicke said.
“Because hes not. Thats not all thats