Apparently, Ron Roenicke has seen enough. Following John Axford’s sixth blown save of the season, the Brewers manager is pulling Axford from the closer role. If there’s a save situation Tuesday night, Francisco Rodriguez will be taking the mound in the 9th.
Roenicke’s comments on the move, from Adam McCalvy’s post:
“Frankie’s going to close right now … ‘Ax,’ we’re going to put him where we feel he has a chance to get his rhythm back, his confidence back. I don’t want to say an inning, because there could be games where it’s the eighth inning when the game’s not on the line. It could be the sixth, could be the seventh, the eighth. Wherever it is where we think [Axford can get] a couple of outings to relax a little bit more and try to get him back, confidence-wise, stuff-wise. If it’s a mechanical issue, Rick [Kranitz, the pitching coach] and he will work on it.”
It certainly could be a mechanical issue — Axford has struggled with control all year, posting a BB/9 of 5.1 that would be a full-season career high. He’s walked 12.4% of the batters he’s faced this year, too. While he is the victim of some bad luck with a .341 BABIP, the walks aren’t going to get many people feeling sorry for him.
In a lot of ways, Axford’s outing Monday night was his 2012 season in a nutshell. He struggled with commanding his curveball from the start, and walked the leadoff man. He still managed to get two outs after the leadoff walk, albeit on a pair of very well-hit balls. He was able to get two strikes on Rafael Furcal, Skip Schumaker, Matt Holliday and Allen Craig, but the first three were able to work Axford deep into the count. Furcal got on with an infield hit (there’s the BABIP coming into play), he walked Schumaker, and then Holliday found a hole in the right side of the infield.
In short: it wasn’t necessarily his fault Furcal and Holliday got base hits, but he put himself in a position to be hurt with the walks to Matt Carpenter and Schumaker. He simply didn’t leave himself with any room for error, and for the sixth time, it cost the Brewers the lead.
If previous performance is any indication, Francisco Rodriguez may not be a lot better in the 9th inning, but he’s something different. For fans, that might just be enough. For the Brewers, a solid two weeks as “closer” could (at least artificially) raise his value on the trade market.