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07/18/12 1:20 AM ET

The Ax falls, and Brewers have a new closer

MILWAUKEE -- After Monday's blown save against the Cardinals, John Axford had a hunch his time as Brewers closer was running short.

He was right. Manager Ron Roenicke on Tuesday afternoon informed Axford, the popular, mustachioed right-hander who converted 49 consecutive saves before his recent run of struggles, that Francisco Rodriguez would take over ninth-inning duties for the near future.

"It was a decision I was kind of expecting after [Monday's] performance," Axford said. "It's frustrating the way things have been going this year, so maybe it will be a breath of fresh air to step back a little bit and try to get back into the swing of things, the way I was last year."

Axford converted 46 of 48 save chances in 2011, the best-ever season for a Brewers closer, but is 16-for-22 this year with a 5.35 ERA and 21 walks in 37 innings -- vs. 25 walks in 73 2/3 innings in 2011. But Axford said he had been feeling better before Monday, when he completely lost the feel for all of his pitches. It felt, Axford said, like he had never thrown a curveball before.

The ninth inning began with a 2-0 Brewers lead and, while Axford had the Cardinals down to their last strike, they rallied for a 3-2 win.

Roenicke said he would mix and match in the eighth inning with options including right-handers Jose Veras and Kameron Loe, and left-hander Manny Parra. At some point, Axford could work into that rotation, but not at the start.

"It's always difficult when you're talking about a guy we [regard] the way we do Ax," Roenicke said. "We still remember what he did last year for us. So, yeah, it's always hard to do. But it is the right thing to do, so I didn't feel bad about doing it. I feel good about doing it, because I feel this is the best way to get him back."

Axford now finds himself in the same position that the man he replaced, Trevor Hoffman, faced in 2010. Hoffman struggled at the start of that season and was replaced by a then-unproven Axford.

Hoffman handled that situation with dignity. Axford vowed to do the same.

"You just try not to let it get to you, I guess. You have to go out there and do your job," Axford said. "Baseball has never really been an easy thing for me. It was never an easy thing to get there to begin with, so I'm not going to assume and think it's going to be easy from here on out. I had to fight to get to the position I'm at and get to the big leagues, so I plan on keeping that up and going after it that way. ...

"I learned from one of the greatest of all time, Trevor Hoffman, and he kept things as even as he could, all the time, and he did that for 601 career saves. So I think that's where I learned from, and I want to keep it that way. I've been there before, where the emotions ran too high, and that's just got me into worse trouble. ... It was once I was able to get those emotions in check I was able to overcome those other things."

Axford said he didn't fight the decision, saying that would have been "selfish."

Roenicke said he would use Axford in lower-leverage situations in an effort to rebuild the pitcher's confidence, which Axford conceded was shaken. That could mean pitching in the sixth inning when the Brewers have the lead, or in the eighth or ninth when the Brewers trail.

Axford wasn't sure himself what to expect.

"I've been in that situation before, when I first was up," he said. "So I'll be ready and prepared to do whatever I can to help the team. That's what I told Ron, too. Whether it's coming in to throw an inning, or two, whatever he sees fit to get me back on track."

After long wait, K-Rod resumes quest for No. 300

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers have a new closer. You may have heard of him.

Francisco Rodriguez, Major League Baseball's single-season saves king, took over the job beginning Tuesday from John Axford and finally resumed his march toward 300 saves, working a tense but scoreless ninth inning for a 3-2 win over the Cardinals.

Rodriguez came to the Brewers from the Mets in a July 2011 trade with 291 saves -- including a record 62 in 2008 for the Angels -- but Tuesday marked only his second save in more than a year with Milwaukee.

It re-started his march toward 300. Rodriguez is seven saves away.

"At 299, I'll think about it," he said. "Right now, I just want to get back in the race. That's what I want so bad. We had such a great run last year in the second half, and we believe as players, these 25 guys on this ballclub, that we can make it again. That's going to be out goal. It's a challenge, but not impossible."

Axford's breaking point came Monday, when he struggled to command all of his pitches against the Cardinals and suffered his sixth blown save in a 3-2 Brewers loss.

"Frankie's going to close right now," manager Ron Roenicke announced Tuesday afternoon, after discussing the change with both relievers. "Ax, we're going to put him where we feel he has a chance to get his rhythm back, his confidence back."

Rodriguez has had his own rough patches in 2012, saying after a June loss at Kansas City that this has been his most frustrating season. But in his last 16 outings, Rodriguez has a 1.84 ERA.

Now he'll get an opportunity to add some saves to his ledger.

"It was good, but at the same time it was bad," Rodriguez said of the Brewers' change. "I cannot be happy, especially with the situation, what we're going through right now. Definitely, I didn't want to get the job in this way. Hopefully, I can step up and get the job done and get some Ws and start to make a run."

Roenicke says Marcum's return is near

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers have long since stopped putting a timetable on Shaun Marcum's return from an elbow injury that was supposed to sideline him for one start and instead will wind up costing him at least six weeks.

So without offering any specifics, manager Ron Roenicke said Marcum's return to the mound is drawing near.

Marcum, whose ailment was never described more specifically than a "stiff elbow," has been playing catch from 120 feet pain-free. He did so on Tuesday at Miller Park and will do so once more this week before he is cleared to take the mound and begin bullpen sessions. After a handful of those, Marcum could finally be cleared for a Minor League rehabilitation assignment.

"We really thought it was going to be one start, and I don't know why sometimes, especially when they don't find anything wrong, medically, it has gone on so long," Roenicke said.

Marcum reiterated on Tuesday that tests never showed structural damage to his elbow, the subject of Tommy John surgery in 2008. He developed stiffness in the joint after a June 16 start in Kansas City.

"I'm back to 120 feet, throwing the ball and it's coming out good," said Marcum, a free agent after the season. "It's turned into more than one, but I'd rather miss four or five or six or whatever it is that the rest of the season. Injuries are part of the game -- especially this year."

Last call

• On Monday, the Brewers Community Foundation passed the $1 million mark in gross 2012 revenue from its nightly "50/50" raffle. Half of the proceeds fund grants to nonprofit organizations that provide programming focusing on health, education, recreation and basic needs. Last year, the program didn't reach $1 million until Aug. 18.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.