Brewers call up righty reliever Axford
Youngster had 2.77 ERA at Triple-A, hasn't pitched in bigs
MILWAUKEE -- When the Brewers pulled right-hander John Axford from Team Canada's entry to the baseball World Cup, the Simcoe, Ontario, native knew something might be up.
That something came to fruition on Monday, when the Brewers added Axford to their 40-man roster and promoted him to the Majors. He arrived only two hours before the team's Labor Day series opener with the Cardinals, got hugs from some former Triple-A Nashville teammates and was fitted with a jersey bearing No. 59.
"You always hope for something like this, especially when you start the year at high [Class] A," said the 26-year-old Axford, who charged through three levels of Milwaukee's Minor League chain before reaching the pinnacle. "When I was told I wasn't going to go with Team Canada, I thought this might be a possibility.
"It's an accomplishment, for sure. This is something everybody strives for."
The Brewers were poised to make one more move later in the day. Third baseman Mat Gamel, who appeared in 48 games for the Brewers earlier this season, batting .239 with four home runs, was expected to be recalled following Monday's Triple-A season finale. The Brewers also planned to recall right fielder Corey Hart from a rehabilitation assignment on Tuesday.
Axford, a 6-foot-5 power pitcher, was 9-1 with a 2.77 ERA in 45 relief appearances between Class A Brevard County, Double-A Huntsville and Nashville this season, including 5-0 with a 3.55 ERA in 22 games at Triple-A. Brewers interim pitching coach Chris Bosio coached Axford at Nashville and said he sports a fastball that ranges from 92-97 mph, plus a quality curveball. Axford also throws a slider and a changeup.
The Brewers cleared a spot for Axford on Sunday by releasing reliever Jesus Colome. The team would have had to add Axford to the 40-man roster after the season anyway, or risk losing him in December's Rule 5 Draft.
Axford signed a Minor League contract with the Brewers in March 2008 after he was released by the Yankees. He's pitched only two professional seasons because his career was set back by Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery in 2004 on his right elbow.
"We were pretty sure he was a 40-man roster candidate, so we figured we would take a look at him," Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash said. "He's struggled with command, but it's improved. We'll give him this opportunity to acclimate himself. That acclimation period for guys coming to the big leagues, it's better to get that out of the way now."
Brewers manager Ken Macha said he would look for low-pressure situations to ease Axford into the big leagues, but entering Monday, the team had played four consecutive one-run games.
Axford pitched a variety of roles for manager Don Money in Nashville and said he would be available for as many as three innings at a time. When he trots in from the bullpen for the first time, he'll be making his Major League debut.
"I'm sure I'll be a little nervous," Axford said. "I always get a little nervous warming up, whether that's in Brevard County or here. Once I get on the mound and the game is there, I'm fine."
With Axford, the Brewers have 10 pitchers in the bullpen for the season's final four weeks. There were no immediate plans to recall right-hander Mike Burns, though that could change, according to Ash, if Monday starter Dave Bush experienced any more trouble with his right triceps. Bush spent more than two months on the disabled list with microtearing of the muscle and has struggled with discomfort since his return.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.