It’s been a long road back for Cleveland Indians relief pitcher John Axford, but a road that looks like it could end with him reclaiming his role as closer for an Indians team that suddenly is over .500. Axford was taken out of the closer role about a month ago, but seems to be getting closer to getting back to the form that saw him close nine games earlier this season.
Axford blew two awful saves to the Chicago White Sox, and put up a 4.91 ERA in 14.2 innings with the Indians before Terry Francona went to the ‘closer by committee’ role that the team is still in right now. Cody Allen has been solid as the fill-in closer, but there’s no doubt the team is better with Axford being the guy at the end of the pen with Allen being the 8th inning set-up man.
For the last month, Allen has combined with Bryan Shaw, Scott Atchison and Mark Rzepczynski to try and save games for the team as well as hold down the fort while Axford works his way back from his early troubles. Since being demoted, Axford not only has taken the lesser role as a pro, but also has been very good when called upon, even if it’s not been that often.
In 8.1 innings, Axford has a 1.08 ERA with 11 strikeouts and four walks, and has been scored upon just once in 11 times on the mound, holding the opposition to an average of just .182. The club would love to see Axford get back to the form of 2011 when he had 46 saves with the Milwaukee Brewers, but for now they would be happy to just see him be the guy who saved nine games in his first 12 tries on the mound.
The Indians are in a stretch where they will play 16 of their next 25 games on the road. They will be counting on their pen to help out in a big way as it has for the first 63 games of the 2014 season. With Axford at the end of it saving games, the pen can only get better.
Matt Loede has covered the Cleveland Indians for 20 years for National Networks like AP Radio, Metro Networks and other local and national stations. Follow him on twitter @mattloede