Axford making progress, but closer's role not yet
Milwaukee Brewers' reliever John Axford has made a solid comeback over the last month. The right-hander has 15 scoreless appearances going into the opener of a three-game series tonight at Cincinnati. Axford has thrown 13-and-a-third innings during that stretch. His E-R-A has almost plunged in half, from 9-point-20 to 4-point-82. Axford started the season as Milwaukee's closer. But he lost the job after giving up four homers in his first six games, while racking up two losses. He's been up-and-down since then, but Brewers' manager Ron Roenicke never stopped using him in set-up roles. Axford says he's been throwing more breaking balls lately, so hitters cannot sit on his fastball which gets into the upper-90's. Roenicke says Axford currently has the right stuff to return to the closer's role - but with Jim Henderson and Francisco Rodriguez pitching well in that spot, the skipper is not sure when Axford might be able to take that job back.
The Brewers are currently fourth in the National League Central, a half-game ahead of the last-place Cubs. The Crew will face a Reds' team that's second in the Central, three-and-a-half games behind front-running Saint Louis. Right-hander Kyle Lohse will start for Milwaukee tonight against Reds' veteran Bronson Arroyo. The Brewers were off yesterday, while Cincinnati lost to the Cubs 6-5 in 14 innings.