Tag:John Axford
Posted on: August 19, 2011 7:41 pm

K-Rod says he's OK with Brewers role

NEW YORK -- The idea was that Scott Boras could sell Francisco Rodriguez this winter as the best closer on the free-agent market.

The problem right now is that K-Rod isn't even a closer at all for the Brewers. In fact, since the All-Star night trade that sent him from the Mets to the Brewers, Rodriguez hasn't had a single ninth-inning save opportunity.

But with the Brewers winning and with closer John Axford near-perfect, Rodriguez isn't complaining.

"When I came here, I was told I was going to be closing some games," Rodriguez said Friday. "Unfortunately, I haven't gotten opportunities, but the good thing is that it's because Ax is doing a great job. He's got something good going on.

"I didn't want to come here and mess up the chemistry they'd developed since spring training."

Rodriguez has a 2.03 ERA in 14 appearances for the Brewers, pitching mostly in the eighth inning as Axford's setup man. The additions of Rodriguez and Takashi Saito, who came off the disabled list, have made the Brewers bullpen one of the more effective ones in baseball.

Rodriguez had a $17.5 million contract option that was set to vest at 55 games finished, but shortly after the trade to the Brewers, Boras negotiated a buyout of the option. That cleared the way for the Brewers to use K-Rod as a closer, but Axford has been so effective that it hasn't happened.

Rodriguez said he wasn't concerned that the lack of closing chances would hurt him on the market.

"I've done it for so many years," he said. "By now, teams know what I'm capable of."

He also said that he expects to get some save opportunities between now and the end of the season. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke agreed that there will likely be days when he uses K-Rod as closer.
Posted on: April 19, 2011 7:45 pm
Edited on: April 19, 2011 7:49 pm

Hold off on judging Brewers, but not the manager

PHILADELPHIA -- It's too early to judge the Brewers.

It may not be too early to judge the Brewers' new manager.

We still haven't seen the Brewer rotation as it was designed, because we still haven't seen Zack Greinke throw a pitch for Milwaukee. We still haven't seen the Brewer lineup as designed, because Corey Hart still hasn't had an at-bat this year. We haven't even seen the Brewer bullpen as designed, because Takashi Saito appeared in just two games before going on the disabled list, and LaTroy Hawkins has yet to make his debut.

Within two weeks, the Brewers could have all those players back.

As infielder Craig Counsell said, "We're getting our team."

So no, we can't judge the Brewers yet, except to say that through all the injuries, they've hung in there so far in what is looking like a balanced (mediocre?) National League Central. Heading into play Tuesday night, the Brewers were 8-8, one game behind the first-place Reds.

So why does it feel like we can already start judging Ron Roenicke?

Simply because all the injuries, and everything else the Brewers have already gone through, makes it feel like he has already managed a lot more than 16 games.

"They haven't been easy," Roenicke said. "But the guys here, they've made it easy."

People around the Brewers say that those guys, the Brewer players, have taken to Roenicke in a way they didn't take to Ken Macha, the manager he replaced. They also say that Roenicke has already proven to have a trait that every good manager needs, the ability to stay consistent through good times and bad.

"Nothing ever festers or lingers with him," said John Shelby, who is on Roenicke's coaching staff as the Brewers' eye-in-the-sky. "You're not going to see him come in and tear up a locker room.

"There's no way you can tell anything different from [Monday] night's game [when the Brewers beat the Phillies in 12 innings] or the first day of the season, when we lost."

On the first day of the season, the Brewers didn't just lose. They blew a three-run lead in the ninth inning in Cincinnati, losing to the division rival Reds on Ramon Hernandez's three-run walkoff home run off closer John Axford.

Of the 29 other active managers in the big leagues, only two lost on a walkoff in their first game. Eric Wedge's 2003 Indians lost in 13 innings in Baltimore, while Ozzie Guillen's 2004 White Sox gave up six in the ninth and lost on a Carlos Beltran walkoff home run in Kansas City.

"I don't know if people think I can manage or not," Guillen told reporters that day.

Roenicke said nothing that colorful. He won't, but he seems as at ease dealing with the media as he does in dealing with his players.

And he's dealt with a lot already.

The difficult opening day loss began a four-game season-opening losing streak. Axford has struggled with his control in nearly every outing, and this week Roenicke had to deal with questions about whether he has a closer problem (he responded by expressing confidence that Axford will get straightened out).

Rival scouts have noticed. They also praise Roenicke for the multiple shifts he has used to help out the Brewers' subpar defense, and for the aggressive style he prefers on the basepaths.

None of that should come as a surprise. Roenicke coached under Mike Scioscia with the Angels, just as Joe Maddon and Bud Black did. And just as Maddon and Black have proven to be successful with the Rays and Padres, Roenicke looks like he could be a success with the Brewers.

The Angels connection is strong.

When a reporter asked Roenicke the other day about Carlos Gomez, Roenicke said that other players in baseball were off to slow starts, too.

The two players he mentioned: Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter, both of the Angels.

"I'm watching them," he admitted with a smile.

You can be sure they're watching him, too.

They'll keep watching, and in a couple of weeks they'll be watching a Brewers team with Greinke, Hart and the others.

They've done all right so far without them.

"I think we've handled it really well," Roenicke said. "Fortunately for us, they weren't year-ending things. [The players] know Zack's coming back. Hopefully, we'll get everyone healthy, and then we'll get on a roll."

Maybe then, we'll know what kind of team the Brewers have.

We already have an idea what kind of manager they have.

Posted on: April 19, 2011 12:55 pm

Year of the closer crisis? No, just normal April

The Twins have changed closers. The White Sox have changed closers. The Cardinals have a closer problem.

And last night, when John Axford was wild (again) and blew a save (for the first time since his opening day disaster), Brewers manager Ron Roenicke was asked if his team has a closer problem. He said no.

But here's the bigger question: Is there a closer problem in baseball overall?

Or is this just a normal April?

Well, through the first 19 days of this season, there have been 24 blown saves in the ninth inning or later (including four each by Matt Thornton of the White Sox and Ryan Franklin of the Cardinals).

That sounds like a lot.

Well, through the first 19 days of the 2010 season, there had already been 26 blown saves in the ninth inning or later. The Rangers had already changed closers. The Orioles had put their unsuccessful closer on the disabled list. Trevor Hoffman was on his way out of the job in Milwaukee, and the Diamondbacks were already on the to having one of the worst bullpens in history.

So is 2011 unusual? Or is this just a typical April?
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