The Cincinnati Reds have to like what they’ve seen from Dylan Axelrod in his two spot starts as a replacement for the injured Homer Bailey. Axelrod has struck out 15 in 11 innings pitched while posting a 1.64 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP.
The sampling of success that Axelrod has had with the Reds is inconsistent with the lack of success he had with the Chicago White Sox. His 5.36 ERA in 198 innings with the White Sox were enough to compel his former team to dump him by allowing the Reds to purchase his contract.
Axelrod has earned the right to remain Bailey’s replacement for the rest of this year until the results prove otherwise, but his real chance to remain with the Reds in 2015 will be as a middle reliever.
Axelrod started his minor league as a reliever before converting to full-time starter in 2011. Axelrod’s reliance on offspeed pitches (including two different change-ups for lefties and righties) combined with a high 80s to low 90s fastball probably won’t convince the Reds to retain Axelrod for the rotation in 2015. But his approach to hitters and his command of his pitches resemble another Reds’ starter-turned-reliever in Sam LeCure.
LeCure has flourished with the Reds as a middle reliever since 2010, but like the rest of the Reds’ bullpen, he has struggled in 2014 (3.69 ERA in 51 appearances). LeCure is under contract for $1.85 million next year with one year of salary arbitration eligibility after that. His career ERA of 3.50 and team contract control might make LeCure a movable trade piece who could command a mid-tier hitting prospect in return.
And if Axelrod continues to pitch with the results he has so far in 2014, he would make LeCure and his higher salary expendable.