Axford was stunned to be traded

Sometimes, players have a sense that could be traded. That was not the case for John Axford, who had just finished packing for the Brewers’ flight home from Pittsburgh on Thursday night when manager Ron Roenicke called him into the office.

Axford had been traded — to the division-rival Cardinals, of all teams.

“I definitely did not see this coming,” Axford said. “It was a total surprise, a shock, when I was pulled into the office last night.”

Because the Brewers were coming off a road trip to Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, he opted to travel back to Milwaukee with his now-former team so he could spend Friday morning with wife Nicole and their two children. Then it was back on the road for a Cardinals trip to — seriously — Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.

“We just went through Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, and we were playing for wins, but at the same time, we knew we were playing to be a spoiler,” Axford said. “Right now, I’m going to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati and I’m going to be contending for a division championship. That’s huge. That’s going to rekindle a lot of fire within me and get me going. Every game is going to be important.”

What was going through his mind on Friday?

“A million different things,” Axford said. “It’s hard to grasp all of the things I’ve been thinking of today, all the things I have to get done. At the same time I’m not trying to take on too much. I’m just going to a new team. I don’t want to blow it out of proportion.

“I’d lie if I didn’t say I was getting nostalgic about all of the good times I’ve had in Milwaukee on and off the field. I enjoyed every minute of playing, but also every moment of being in the city, going out and about and engaging myself with different people and the different styles of the city, and living as it were home. It’s been interesting having all of those feelings while thinking about going to a new place.

“But at the same time, after that nostalgia, there was a lot of excitement. I’m excited to start something new in my career. Baseball is all about change, and I’m really looking forward to this change.”

The biggest shock of all, Axford said, was that he was dealt within the National League Central. He was happy the destination was St. Louis, and not just because the Cardinals will begin play Friday in first place. He and Nicole have good friends in that city, and have explored its neighborhoods extensively during the Brewers’ trips there.

“St. Louis has a great history, and I love the city,” Axford said.

What will be his role with his new team?

“I really have no idea,” Axford said. “I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. Just like with the Brewers, I’ll take every opportunity I can and do my best. I’m going to a team that’s contending and is in first place in the division, and that’s automatically going to light another fire in getting me going.”

Axford became expendable with Brandon Kintzler’s emergence as a shutdown set-up man and Jim Henderson’s hold of the closer role. Henderson simply outperformed Axford, just like Axford outperformed Trevor Hoffman to take the role in 2010.

“He’s really taken control of that role,” Axford said of the fellow Canadian Henderson. “Not to say that it would have been any different if I were back with the [Brewers] next year, but you never know what might be looming or what he might be thinking. In this case now, he knows that it will be his job and he can run away with it and take full control.”

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