The Brewers optioned right-hander John Axford to Triple-A Nashville on Tuesday afternoon but manager Ken Macha expects the right-hander to return at some point before 2010 is over.
“We need to get him pitching on a regular basis in case we do have a problem with one of our right-handed relievers,” Macha said. “This guy has had an extremely impressive spring.”
Axford surrendered a run on two hits in one inning of Tuesday’s 10-2 Brewers win over the Indians. It was the first run he had allowed since his Cactus League debut on March 4, when the Giants touched Axford for four runs on five hits. In five outings between that game and Tuesday’s, Axford surrendered only four hits and no earned runs.
His mid-90s fastball makes Axford a potential closer candidate, but general manager Doug Melvin said Axford would report to Nashville without any specific instructions.
“I’m not a big believer in one-inning closers in the Minor Leagues,” Melvin said. “His assignment is just go pitch. He needs to get his work in.”
Axford’s work in camp impressed Macha.
“From where this guy has come — he was almost a release candidate at one point in time — to [now], he’s going to have a chance to get some people out in the big leagues,” Macha said. “He’s got an explosive fastball and a snapdragon curve. That’s a good combination. That’s Troy Percival kind of stuff.”
Percival saved 358 games in 14 Major League seasons. Axford probably won’t have an opportunity to rack up those kind of numbers; he’s a late-bloomer who will turn 27 on April 1 and only has three seasons of professional experience. The Brewers signed Axford in March 2008 after a tryout at Maryvale Baseball Park.
Axford was the third of three moves on Tuesday. Right-hander Tim Dillard was reassigned to Minor League camp and fellow nonroster invitee Scott Schoeneweis left camp after being informed he would not make the Opening Day roster. The Brewers intend to formally release Schoeneweis on Thursday, Melvin said.