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Axford making progress, but closer's role not yet

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sports Ellsworth, 54011
Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

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.

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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.

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