It was no surprise that the St. Louis Cardinals didn’t tender a contract to John Axford, but he will be missed in the clubhouse if not in the bullpen.
The Cardinals traded pitcher Michael Blazek to the Milwaukee Brewers for Axford at the end of August when closer Edward Mujica was beginning to show signs of fatigue and wear-and-tear. It turned out that the team didn’t really need him, as Trevor Rosenthal stepped seamlessly into the closer role, but Axford was a good insurance policy nonetheless. He appeared in only 13 games, but pitched well and brushed up his resume for a future job.
Cardinal fans didn’t get to know Axford that well, but every one of them loved the “Hump Day” celebration he orchestrated when the Cardinals were playing the Colorado Rockies on a Wednesday in September. He purchased a few camel costumes and even rode to Coors Field on a bike wearing one of them. He and a few of his bullpen mates put on a little show in the outfield. During the long grind of the season, such lighthearted moments can help keep a team going strong.
Rosenthal will have the closer role heading into 2014 Spring Training, and Jason Motte will be coming back from Tommy John surgery. With no defined role and a hefty salary due, Axford just didn’t fit in with the Cardinals’ plans.
Teams that do need help in the bullpen should definitely take a close look. He was the NL saves leader in 2011 with 46, and showed in his time with the Cardinals that he still has his stuff. If they also need a good clubhouse guy, then so much the better.
Sara Lefebvre is a St Louis Cardinals writer for RantSports.com. Connect with her on Google.