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8/22/2014 8:05 P.M. ET

Axford returns to Miller Park with division foe

MILWAUKEE -- Once a fixture in the Brewers' clubhouse, John Axford was back in the Miller Park visitors' clubhouse Friday, pitching for his second divisional rival in as many years.

Axford, who spent five and a half years in the Brewers' organization, returned as a Cardinal last year after the Brewers traded the righty to St. Louis. After winning the National League pennant with the Cardinals, he signed with the Indians, who dealt him to Pittsburgh on Aug. 14. On Friday, he returned looking to help the Pirates cut into the Brewers' lead in the National League Central.

"I wasn't expecting to be in the NL Central this year, but obviously crazy things happen in this game. Things change," Axford said. "It's definitely great to be back in the hunt. You have that second Wild Card, it opens things up quite a bit. You never know what can happen. Hopefully, things work out well here this year, too."

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said he was happy to see the reliever, who accumulated 106 saves for the Brewers from 2009-12, including a league-leading 46 for the 2011 NL Central championship team.

"I always follow him. He's a real likable guy and works hard," Roenicke said. "He's very professional. I'm always interested to see how he's doing. He can still pitch. He's got a great arm."

Now on his third team within the division, Axford acknowledged he's gathered some knowledge to help him through the Brewers' lineup.

"When you're a teammate, you tend to not look at it quite as much that way," Axford said. "There's certain guys you definitely do because you wonder how you'd get them out if you faced them, with how good some of those guys are over there. But you get to know them over the years, and hopefully I can use that to my advantage, and I'm sure they're going to do the exact same with me, through watching me for so many years."

He joked of a possible game plan: "Maybe I'll just throw all changeups, since I don't at all."

Lohse set to start series opener in San Diego

MILWAUKEE -- After Kyle Lohse threw a successful bullpen session at Miller Park on Friday, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke announced that the right-hander would be the team's starter for the series opener in San Diego on Monday.

Lohse skipped his most recent turn in the rotation due to a sore right ankle that had been hampering his mechanics over his last few starts. Lohse rolled his ankle Aug. 2 in St. Louis and aggravated the injury in an Aug. 13 start at Wrigley Field, and with two off-days this week, the Brewers were able to skip him without bringing another starter into the rotation.

Roenicke said Lohse "threw the ball really well" in Friday's session, and the right-hander agreed.

"I was able to throw everything that I needed to," Lohse said. "I'm back to pretty much normal. I was able to get the push and balance that I needed that I wasn't able to get. I was just adjusting pitch to pitch, compensating with my upper body. It's all good."

Each pitcher in the rotation will then resume their normal order after Lohse, starting with Jimmy Nelson on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Roenicke said that Matt Garza would throw a bullpen session on Sunday. Garza was placed on the disabled list on Aug. 5 with a left oblique strain and has been working his way back slowly.

If Sunday's session goes well, Garza would throw one more bullpen and then the team would look to send him on a rehab assignment, Roenicke said. He said the righty is still on track for an early September return.

Caitlin Swieca is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.