Results tagged ‘ John Axford ’

Gomez out with stiff back

Center fielder Carlos Gomez is the latest Brewers regular to show up on the injury report. He was supposed to start Monday’s game against the Giants, but complained of a stiff back so Brandon Boggs is playing instead. 

It’s a minor setback, but those have been piling up for the Brewers. Of the nine projected Opening Day starters, seven have lost at least a handful of Cactus League innings to a medical issue. Pitcher Zack Greinke (cracked rib), catcher Jonathan Lucroy (fractured finger) and right fielder Corey Hart (rib-cage strain) have not played at all because of more serious injuries, and second baseman Rickie Weeks (groin), shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt (right quadriceps), left fielder Ryan Braun (rib-cage strain) and now Gomez have come out of a game early or missed a start as a precaution. Plus, closer John Axford got a late start because of food poisoning.
First baseman Prince Fielder and third baseman Casey McGehee have been able to stay on their schedules. 
Perspective is in order, because none of the setbacks in Brewers camp have threatened a player’s season. Betancourt left Sunday’s game early, but he could be back in action as early as Tuesday. Braun returned to the lineup Monday after exiting Saturday with his rib strain. Weeks’ groin issue seems to have passed. Hart is making significant progress in recent days and was to begin swinging a bat on Monday. Lucroy will have the pin in his finger removed next week and is on track for Opening Day. 
Maybe the Brewers are just getting their injuries out of the way early. Better now than during the regular season. 
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Banged-up bullpen notes

Who knew that head athletic trainer Roger Caplinger would play such an important role in the Brewers’ assembling their 2011 bullpen?

Closer John Axford, set-up men Takashi Saito and LaTroy Hawkins and left-handed long man Manny Parra had all yet to make their Cactus League debuts as of Thursday morning because of various ailments, and hopefuls Pat Egan and Mitch Stetter were in the same camp. 
“It’s a little unusual for your bullpen guys, because they’re usually just throwing an inning,” manager Ron Roenicke said. 
At least all of those players were on the right track:
– Parra, who was slowed by some middle back stiffness, was to pitch Thursday afternoon against the A’s at Maryvale Baseball Park. 
– Axford was set back by a bout of food poisoning, an unfortunate side effect of his Valentine’s Day dinner with wife Nicole. The Brewers took a cautious approach with Axford while he regained strength, and he’s to debut against the Giants on Friday in Scottsdale, Ariz. 
– Hawkins (shoulder) and Saito (hip and hamstring) each threw bullpen sessions on Wednesday with no setbacks, manager Ron Roenicke said. 
It was Hawkins’ first mound work since major shoulder surgery last August, and he said the 20-pitch session went “great.” He won’t appear in games until mid-month at the earliest. Saito asked for his Cactus League debut to be pushed back because of tightness that he worried could lead to trouble with his right shoulder, like it did in 2010, so he won’t make his Brewers debut until Saturday against the Angels.
The issues were not limited to the established pitchers. 
 
Stetter, trying to regain the foothold in the organization that he had in 2009, when he made 71 appearances in the Majors, suffered a strained latissimus dorsi muscle behind his left shoulder prior to camp but is scheduled for a bullpen on Friday. 
The latest name to come up in Roenicke’s morning meetings with reporters was Egan’s. The 6-foot-8 righty has been slowed by tightness around his right hip, Roenicke said, but is expected to throw off a mound on Friday, perhaps against the Giants. Egan had a similar ailment last spring with the Orioles.
 
Egan is particularly interesting partly because he’s a Rule 5 Draft pick, and would have to stick on Milwaukee’s 25-man roster or be offered back to the Orioles.
Given he’s never pitched in the Majors, Egan might be a long shot for a bullpen that, barring future injuries, is full except for one spot. Right-handers Sean Green, Mike McClendon, Brandon Kintzler and Justin James are among the others vying to impress Roenicke and pitching coack Rick Kranitz in camp.
“I’m not concerned about them being ready to pitch [at the start of the season], but what I’m concerned about is if guys are trying to make the team and they’re hurt, then, yes, they need to be out there to throw as much as they can,” Roenicke said. “[Egan] would certainly be one of them. Any time you have a Rule 5 guy, you have to see as much of him as you can.”
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No shortage of praise for Hoffman in clubhouse

Following last night’s thriller, which featured career save No. 600 for Trevor Hoffman, we had a sidebar on his Brewers teammates’ reactions to the moment.
While that story captured the emotions and feelings in the clubhouse, there was far too much to fit in after the game. With a guy like Hoffman who’s frequently described as the “best teammate,” there was hardly of lack of things to say in the home clubhouse.
Braun: “Like we were going to the playoffs”
According to left fielder Ryan Braun, the emotion following the final out of the game was far greater than the meaningless early September game that it starter out as.
“It felt like we were going to the playoffs,” he said. “It was exciting. I think it was exciting for all of us to have something to celebrate, for all of us to have been a part of something so special. That’s something that we might not ever see again. Who knows if anybody else ever gets to 600 saves.”
Coffey: “I was 100 percent spectator”
Perhaps most excited about the achievement — more so even than Hoffman himself — were Hoffman’s bullpen mates.
Reliever Todd Coffey described his feelings as “beyond goosebumps” as he become more of a spectator than a teammate. After that, he went on for a few minutes about the emotions he felt both when Hoffman entered the game and recorded his 600th save.
“As soon as he walked out of the bullpen, the entire bullpen was up and I think we were all clapping louder than the fans, we were hollering louder than the fans,” Coffey said. “I don’t think any of us actually realized we were in the bullpen. We were all out there with Hoffy.
“We were hanging over, we even thought about, ‘let’s just jump the wall and go. Then we thought, ‘we better not jump the wall.’
“I think me, Zach [Braddock] and Kam[eron Loe] all hit the pile at the same time. I think I felt the whole pile moving when we hit it. It’s an experience that I’ll never forget. He’s always there for every one of us. For us to be there for him, it’s amazing. He cares less about himself and more about his teammates than anything else.”
Davis: “Just incredible”
Others had less to say, but their thoughts were no less insightful.
Veteran left-handed starter Doug Davis recalled being part of a similar moment early in his career.
“Definitely the most exciting thing I’ve ever been a part of,” Davis said. “My first win was John Wetteland’s 300th save. I thought that was impressive, but this, twice as many saves, it’s just incredible.”
Bush: “An amazing number”
Another Brewers starter, right-hander Dave Bush, took particular notice of the number of people in the dugout during that final inning, as everyone wanted the best view they could get of Hoffman’s historic save.
“It’s an amazing number, one that nobody’s ever gotten to before,” Bush said. “I can’t even fathom at all what it takes to reach that.
“It was exciting. Probably the most people I’ve ever seen in the dugout in the ninth inning. Everybody was coming down here because they wanted to be as close to it as they could. As a player, moments like that are few and far between. To be his teammate and to be around for something like is just awesome.”
Lucroy: “I’m totally lucky and blessed”
After beginning the season at Double-A Huntsville, catcher Jonathan Lucroy called the game Tuesday night, including Hoffman’s thrilling ninth.
As he waited on the mound for the all-time saves leader, with “Hell’s Bells” blaring from the stadium speakers, Lucroy said he had goosebumps and began to shake from the nerves.
He stayed relaxed behind the plate, though, and didn’t change a thing. Until the final out as he ran down toward first base.
“It’s something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life and cherish,” Lucroy said. “To be able to remember something like that, it’s a blessing for me to even be able to experience it.
“To see him achieve a goal like that is just something that every baseball player lives for. It couldn’t have happened to a better guy. He totally deserves it. It’s an honor for me to even be here and just experience it.
“I was jacked up and excited. I told myself I was going to sacrifice my life to get an out for him if I needed to. I was going to go everything I could to get an out, no matter what I had to do, I was going to sacrifice everything for him.
“For somebody like that, to put in the kind of work he has, to play for as long as he has, and have the kind of character that he has, and for something like that to happen to him, and for me to even be there and be a part of it, it’s an unbelievable feeling.
“I was the first one [to the mound]. Usually I run down to first base and back up on ground balls, but I cut it off halfway. I was going to go get there first as fast as I could. I grabbed him and he grabbed me in a headlock and then everybody else hit and we went at it.
“It’s not very often you see grown men crying out there and there were grown men crying on the field. It was very emotional, I was trying to hold back as best I could. It’s just the payoff for so much hard work and just shows you that if you work hard and be a good person in this game there’s a lot of good things that happen to you.
“I’m totally lucky and blessed to even be here. To experience that, I don’t even deserve that. I don’t even deserve to be on the same field as that guy.”
Axford: “My heart was racing the entire time”
Of course, no story about Hoffman’s historic accomplishment would be complete without some mention of his replacement, rookie John Axford.
As has been the case all season, Axford had nothing but positive things to say about his mentor in the Brewers bullpen.
“He’s meant everything to my development because he carries about his business perfectly. He does everything right,” Axford said. “That’s been the best mentor for me. I just try to watch him and see what he does and see how I can build upon that. Every time I go out there I just try and do right by Trevor. I just want to do basically what Trevor would do and do things the right way.
“My heart was racing the entire time once the ‘Hell’s Bells’ started. My heart was going and it didn’t stop the entire time until we’re actually here right now and I’m still talking a mile a minute. I still feel the emotion and the rush from it. I think it was absolutely unbelievable.”
“It’s a cool kind of turn around. At the beginning of the year, I got my first save and Hoffy went in and got a hold for me. Now I got to go in and save that game for him, which is probably going to be the best hold of my entire life right there. I’m definitely glad I was in that game for sure.”
McGehee: “The ultimate professional”
Third baseman Casey McGehee admitted he was nervous when Hoffman entered the game. In fact, he was just hoping the ball wasn’t hit to him.
Once the final out had been recorded, however, McGehee was thrilled to be a part of such a big moment and to have played with someone who is the all-time leader
in any category.
“I think the reaction of all the guys kind of let everybody see how important to this team and to us he is,” McGehee said. “You couldn’t have asked for it to happen to a better guy. He’s the ultimate professional with everything he does.
“There’s not too many people you played with that you can say you played with the all-time best anything. When my career is over and I’m sitting around telling stories at a bar somewhere, that’s going to be one of the ones I tell.
“You can’t block that out, we all knew what was going on. Most of us, we’re huge fans of the game. Coming up, we remember watching Trevor Hoffman when he was in his prime and he was virtually unhittable. To be any small part of it, it’s pretty special.
“Some of these guys that got called up today, first day in the big leagues, not a bad way to start your big league career.”
Fielder: “Happy to be a part of it”
The final out was recorded by Prince Fielder, as veteran shortstop Craig Counsell fielded a ground ball and fired to Fielder at first.
As Fielder closed his first-baseman’s mitt on the ball, he joined McGehee and Lucroy as the first three players to embrace Hoffman on the mound.
“It was awesome,” Fielder said. “Coming into this year, you knew he was close to getting it. Everything he had to go through to get to it and he finally got it, I’m really happy for him. It’s really awesome.
“It [ranks] up there just because it’s your teammate and it’s a really special moment and something that nobody else has ever done. That’s what makes it even more special and I’m just really happy to be a part of it.
Narveson: “Pretty amazing”
But none of it would have been possible had it not been for an impressive seven-inning performance by lefty starter Chris Narveson. 
His brilliance on the mound was lost in the shuffle, but everything was set up by one of Narveson’s best starts of the 2010 season.
“That was pretty amazing,” Narveson said. “To be able to witness it and be the guy that started that game, was pretty special.”
– Jordan Schelling, Associate Reporter
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Rookies making impact

It seems to me that the silver lining of an otherwise lost Brewers season is the slew of rookies who have proven they fit at the Major League level. With that in mind, here’s a preview of a feature set to hit Brewers.com later today:

escobar-lucroy.jpg
The Brewers broke camp with one rookie on the Opening Day roster — shortstop Alcides Escobar. Now, they’re everywhere. 
“It feels like half the team!” Escobar said. 
Not quite, but the Brewers have certainly skewed younger since the start of the season. On a given day in August the Brewers could start Escobar at shortstop, Jonathan Lucroy behind the plate and Lorenzo Cain in center field, with Zach Braddock ready in relief to face the opponent’s toughest left-handed hitter and John Axford on hand for a save opportunity.
When rosters expanded on Wednesday, right-hander Jeremy Jeffress joined the group. He’s only 22, and when he trotted in for the bottom of the eighth inning against the Reds, he threw his first pitch above Double-A. 
This is not necessarily the way general manager Doug Melvin drew it up in Spring Training. Cain and Lucroy, in particular, probably could have used more Minor League seasoning considering they both began the year in Double-A. But as needs arose, Melvin reacted. 
And the kids responded. 
“When we came up, we knew we had a job to do,” Braddock said. “There was going to be a learning period, but we also needed to do the job that was asked of us.”
Braddock and Axford — along with non-rookie Kameron Loe — were crucial in the Brewers’ midseason makeover of a bullpen that cost them dearly in April. Braddock has a 2.76 ERA in 36 games and, while he allowed a couple of inherited runners to score on Wednesday, is unscored upon in all but four of his outings. Axford claimed the closer’s role brilliantly from Trevor Hoffman, going 19-for-21 in save chances including seven saves of four or more outs. 
Lucroy was summoned in May after the Brewers lost starting catcher Gregg Zaun to a season-ending shoulder and top catching prospect Angel Salome to personal issues. Lucroy has proven serviceable, hitting .265 with four home runs and showing improvement in his game-calling and defense. 
The Brewers promoted Cain briefly in July and then recalled him for good in early August when center fielder Carlos Gomez went on the disabled list with a concussion. Cain has taken hold of the position, flashing some surprisingly spectacular defense while hitting .300 with a .351 on-base percentage in 70 at-bats.
Escobar has had the ups and downs the Brewers expected during his rookie season. He’s hitting .251. 
It will take some time for them to really settle in. 
“They’re coming along,” manager Ken Macha said. “But my experience is that normally it takes about three years for guys really to settle into the Major Leagues. You know who’s pitching, how they pitched you, you start to learn the hitters, what they do, all that kind of stuff. 
“You’re comfortable with your surroundings. You know what to expect when you come to the ballpark. It takes some time for guys to make that leap forward to being a Major League player.” 
Which Brewers rookie do you think will end up being the best Major Leaguer?
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Axford rooting for Dutch in World Cup

MILWAUKEE — Even with the United States and Mexico eliminated, at least one person in the Brewers clubhouse still has a rooting interest in the World Cup.

 

Closer John Axford, a native of Ontario, Canada, is pulling for The Netherlands, which beat Slovakia, 2-1, on Monday to advance to the quarterfinals against Brazil.

Axford is of Dutch heritage on his mother’s side of the family, and his grandparents immigrated to Canada before she was born, just after World War II.

“I remember being younger, we’d always get together for the games and watch them because my grandfather was really into it,” Axford said. “If he had his way, I’d definitely play soccer over baseball.

“I played soccer in elementary school. He actually taught me to kick with my left foot before I could learn with my right because he said, ‘Everyone kicks with their right, so you’ll learn with your left first.'”

Axford said his mother was either the first or second member of her family born in Canada, though he could not remember if she or his uncle was born first.

While Axford has not been able to keep up on the World Cup as much as he would like — he did not watch The Netherlands play on Monday — he knows the excitement will only grow if they continue to advance in the tournament.

“It’s a pretty big thing with our family,” Axford said. “I know if they continue going through everyone will be calling each other and talking with each other and trying to catch the last couple games.”

And what does Axford think of The Netherlands’ chances against Brazil?

“That’s going to be pretty tough,” Axford said. “I saw part of the Brazil game today and they were doing pretty good. So it’ll be a tough game, but it should be a good game. Reading about it I think The Netherlands have got a pretty good shot.”

– Jordan Schelling, Associate Reporter

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Hoffman could still close for Brewers

MILWAUKEE — With the way Trevor Hoffman has been pitching lately, the possibility of the all-time saves leader closing for the Brewers again is still there, manager Ken Macha said Tuesday.

 

Hoffman’s last outing, a scoreless eighth inning in a 1-1 ballgame Sunday in Colorado that earned him the win in the Brewers’ eventual 6-1 victory, was the fifth in a row for Hoffman in which he has not allowed a run.

Since giving up three runs and taking the loss on June 1 in Florida, Hoffman has tossed five scoreless innings, allowing just three hits.

“After that outing, I’d feel pretty good about him coming in now,” Macha said. “I thought the other day was his best outing. … He certainly threw the ball well enough to close the game.”

Macha was quick to point out the decision was not an easy one to make, especially considering the criticism that would come along with replacing current closer John Axford, who has not yet blown a save.

“It puts you out on the plank,” Macha said. “But I think he’s done real well, so let’s just see. I’ve got that amongst the other pressures that are placed on me when I come to the ballpark every day.”

As for if or when he would remove Axford from the role, Macha said it would “work itself out.”

At the same time, however, Macha recognizes what it would mean for Hoffman to get the four saves he needs to reach the 600-save mark.

“I certainly would like Trevor to reach his goal,” Macha said. “If that’s getting 600, I’d like to get that done for him. Or 610 or whatever he wants.

“He hasn’t given up an earned run since June 1. The game was on the line the other day, we had a tie game with the heart of their order coming up. It’s a good inning for him.”

– Jordan Schelling, Associate Reporter

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Turning point for the pitching?

The Brewers won Sunday with a five-run outburst in the ninth inning, but manager Ken Macha was even more pleased with what he saw over the first eight. 
Randy Wolf pitched through the seventh inning in his second consecutive quality start, and deposed closer Trevor Hoffman delivered a 1-2-3 eighth inning in what Macha called one of the all-time saves king’s best outings of his down season. Hoffman’s replacement, John Axford, stayed sharp with a perfect ninth inning as the Brewers — with the final two innings of Saturday’s loss notwithstanding — continued a promising pitching trend that has some still holding out hope of a mid-season revival.
With Wolf’s outing, the Brewers have seven quality starts in their last nine games. The starters own a 3.34 ERA in that span.
“You can see the difference. They’re keeping us in games and we’re winning more games,” left fielder Ryan Braun said. “Everybody is throwing the ball great. The pitching has really come together, which is exciting to see because there’s a lot of season left.” 
The hitters pushed the Brewers over the top on Sunday, of course. Rickie Weeks and Corey Hart delivered two-run doubles and Prince Fielder added an RBI double of his own to finish a 3-3 road trip on a high note. 
“It was a pretty good road trip, 3-3,” Macha said. “You always have those would-have, could-haves, but I think the starting pitching on this trip was pretty good. That’s something we need to build on as we go home for a pretty long homestand.”
Jordan Schelling will have it covered for MLB.com while I step away for a couple of weeks. I’ll be back in time for July 4, when we’ll find out who will represent the Brewers in Anaheim at the All-Star Game. 
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Macha not naming Axford as closer, yet

MILWAUKEE — With John Axford getting the call in the ninth inning of the Brewers’ 8-6 victory on Saturday, many began to assume it meant he was the team’s closer.

 

Not so fast, manager Ken Macha said in his postgame press conference.

“I’m not eliminating Trevor,” said Macha, referring to all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman. “I want to give [Hoffman] a few more innings. But it’s going to be nice if we have coverage like that.”

Axford, a flame-throwing 27-year-old right-hander, is 2-for-2 in save opportunities on the season. Along with his save at the end of the 2009 season, Axford is a perfect 3-for-3 in his short big league career as a closer.

Though his career total is still 593 less than that of Hoffman, Axford doesn’t let the pressure of the situation get to him.

“It’s a tough situation to be in, I guess,” Axford said. “I don’t hold a flame to Trevor Hoffman. So I’m not thinking about that really. I’m just trying to get my job done.”

While Macha has been impressed by Axford’s recent performance out of the bullpen, he sees greater value in having several pitchers comfortable with pressure situations in the late innings.

“There’s no problem having a couple,” Macha said. “My last year in Oakland, we had six guys with saves. I’d like to get Trevor back. … The more guys you’re can bring in pressure situations and they’re able to get outs, that makes your bullpen that much stronger.

“I’d like to get [LaTroy] Hawkins back too. When all those pieces get back together, it starts to give you a lot of options. … I’m not selling any of those guys short.”

When asked about his bullpen in his morning session with the media, Macha said he hoped to get Hoffman in the game on Sunday. He did not, however, specify an inning in which that might happen.

But with the way Axford has pitched lately, Macha admitted after Saturday’s game that “it’s hard not to bring him in.”

“He has the stuff,” Macha said. “There’s no doubt about that.”

– Jordan Schelling, Associate Reporter

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Axford up, Stern back to Minors

The Brewers are still in their sixth week of playing regular season baseball, and they already need reinforcements for an overworked bullpen. 

The team on Saturday optioned outfielder Adam Stern back to Triple-A Nashville and promoted right-handed John Axford in time for an afternoon game against the Phillies. Axford gave the Brewers a 13-man pitching staff, and manager Ken Macha said it would remain that way for the “near future.”
“Whether that’s a week or 10 days, something like that,” Macha said. 
Axford was excellent in Spring Training and continued to pitch well at Nashville, where he was 3-2 with a 2.03 ERA (13 1/3 innings, 3 earned runs) and two saves in 12 games. 
Brewers relievers had combined for a 5.68 ERA entering Saturday’s game, the second-worst mark of all 30 Major League teams to Arizona’s 7.49, and a league-worst .292 batting average against. They had also been called upon to work 117 1/3 innings, the seventh-highest total of the 30 teams. 
Milwaukee’s struggles at the back end of the bullpen with usually-reliable veterans have exacerbated the problem. Closer Trevor Hoffman already has four blown saves, matching his total from all of last season, and a 12.00 ERA in 12 appearances. Setup man LaTroy Hawkins was hit to the tune of a 9.23 ERA in 13 appearances while pitching with weakness in his right shoulder before finally succumbing to the disabled list. Hawkins will be re-evaluated on Monday. 
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Triple-A Sounds off to 4-0 start

The Brewers will be trying to follow the lead of their Triple-A affiliate when they face the Cubs at Wrigley Field this week. 
The Nashville Sounds on Sunday finished a four-game road sweep of the Iowa Cubs with a 4-2 win and got another home run from outfielder Brendan Katin. Nashville’s 4-0 start is its best since 2003, when that eventual division champion club started the year 8-0. 
Katin already has three home runs and six RBIs after batting .417 in the season-opening series. Sounds relievers have only allowed one run in 14 1/3 innings, and closer Chris Smith already has three saves. Zach Braddock and John Axford, two relievers who figure to make their way to the big leagues at some point this season, have two scoreless outings apiece.
The Sounds continue their road trip on Monday with the opener of a four-game series against the Omaha Royals. Left-hander Chase Wright will make his first start of the season.
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