Relievers have a tendency to pop-up out of nowhere, which is exactly what happened with John Axford. The Brewers’ closer has been one of the very best relief pitchers in baseball over the last two and a half years, pitching to a 2.26 ERA (2.33 FIP) with 11.05 K/9 and 48.2% grounders in 139.1 IP since making his debut in 2009. He also led the league with 46 saves in 2011.
Of course, Axford was a Yankee once upon a time, or at least a player in the Yankees organization. They signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2006 after seeing him pitch for the Melville Millionaires of the Western Major Baseball League, a summer college league way up Canada. Axford was 24 at the time, and the Yankees used him as a classic organizational arm. His first appearance of the 2007 season came with High-A Tampa, his second with Triple-A Scranton, his next eleven with Low-A Charleston, his next eight with Short Season Staten Island, his next two with Low-A Charleston, and his final four with High-A Tampa. Twenty-seven total appearances across four levels in the span of six months.
Four years ago today, after just one season in the system, the Yankees released Axford. The Brewers signed him about three months later and stuck him on their High-A affiliate as (primarily) a starter for most of 2008. Milwaukee sent him back to High-A the next year, but this time as a reliever. A few weeks into the season, pitching coach Fred Dabney and pitching coordinator Lee Tunnell told Axford to “try to pitch like [Roy Halladay]” during a bullpen session. He lowered his arm slot, and the rest is history. Axford’s low-90’s fastball suddenly jumped into the 95-98 mph range, and his curveball had a bit more bite. Three years later, he’s an All-Star closer. Funny how that works, eh?
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Here’s your open thread for this chilly evening. You’re pretty much on your own as far as entertainment goes, but you folks are resourceful, I’m sure you’ll find a way to entertain yourself. Talk about anything you like here, it’s all fair game.