John Axford has logged a significant amount of time on the mound recently. Of the new Brewers' closer's last five outings, four have gone 1 2/3 or more innings, with his last three saves requiring five outs.
Normally, that would be a concern for a rookie, but Axford logged 76 innings in 2009 between the Brewers and farm system. That number is far and away over the 2010 season's 57 1/3 innings. Given Axford is pacing to throw roughly 10-15 more innings in the year, the 27-year-old is in no danger of far exceeding his innings limit.
"I've looked at how many innings he pitched last year and where he is this year, including his minor leagues, and he's still got a way to go," manager Ken Macha told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel . "There is something to say for getting up, throwing, sitting back down and getting up again, but that's not like any other relief pitcher."
Axford has been a revelation in a year where Trevor Hoffman seems to be bringing about an ignominious end to an otherwise stellar career. He has a 2.64 ERA on the season, notching 19 saves and should have no difficulty entering 2011 as the incumbent closer.
The former Yankees prospect took a long road to the majors, at one point being released by New York at the end of 2007. While Axford was similarly unsuccessful in high-Class A as a 25-year-old, so he was rather old for that level. 2009 is when things started changing as he started to cut back on his walks. He took another big leap forward in 2010 in learning how to control the strike zone.
Don't feel bad about the Yankees missing out on John Axford as a potential Mariano Rivera replacement -- Rivera could probably pitch 20 more years and not miss a beat.
-- Evan Brunell
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