Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher John Axford is back to his old habits after pitching at a high level for eight straight games. Many believe the right-hander should attempt to work out his problems in the minors, while members of the Brewers organization think that he can pitch out of his struggles. Should Milwaukee send Axford down to Triple-A to figure out his mechanics?
The 30-year-old has given up five runs (four earned) in two innings in his last three outings. That includes the one earned run he surrendered in a 1/3 inning in a blow out in the series finale against the St. Louis Cardinals Sunday afternoon. Fans continued to boo Axford on the home stand, something that has clearly gotten to him.
“Coming off, you hear more [boos],” Axford said, according to Brewers.com. “If I could erase those first four outings where things weren’t there mechanically, when the velocity wasn’t there — if I could get rid of those games, then maybe things are a little bit different. Maybe I feel different. Maybe the crowd feels different, too. But it’s tough to get rid of those outings, tough to forget about them.
“So, I understand where [fans] are at. It is what it is. It’s difficult.”
While Axford continues to work things out in the big leagues, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke refuses to entertain the idea of sending him down to the Minor Leagues.
“No, it’s not [under discussion],” Roenicke told Brewers.com. “We feel he can get it back together. We saw him do it last year, and still feel that he can do it. … It’s the same thing that he was in [last season], whether it’s confidence, whether it’s mechanical. If it’s mechanical, Rick [Kranitz] and Lee [Tunnell] will figure it out.
“I don’t think it is mechanical, as far as not putting him in a spot where he can make good pitches. But I don’t know that it’s all mental, either. I think Ax, he goes through things like this. Even when he was really good two years ago, he still gets in full counts a lot. He’s not a guy that just commands the ball great and is a strike-thrower all the time. But working with the delivery and upstairs with the confidence, he’s got to get both of them back.”
It is somewhat understandable why Roenicke continues to believe in Axford. The four-year player has shown great promise at times in his career. Not to mention, an eight-game stretch not too long ago proved Axford is still capable of pitching at a high level. He posted a 1.23 ERA, eight strikeouts, six holds and a .192 opponent’s batting average from April 13-30.
At this point, it appears Roenicke is afraid that if he sends Axford down then the veteran will lose any confidence he has left. With that being said, if the former closer cannot get batters out then the Milwaukee fans will take care of that.
I personally believe Axford is capable of playing at the same level that he did in 2011 when he recorded a franchise-record 46 saves with a 1.95 ERA. However, the fact that he is very inconsistent on the mound has to make management think twice about what to do with him.