One year later, K-Rod replaces John Axford as closer

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6:15 p.m. EDT update: Brewers manager Ron Roenicke made it official today, saying Francisco Rodriguez would replace John Axford in the closer’s role for now.

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When the Brewers acquired Francisco Rodriguez from the Mets last July 12, they knew he wanted to close and tried to placate him by saying he and John Axford would be co-closers. Of course, that never materialized, and K-Rod ended up going without a save in 31 appearances during the second half of the save.

Now, one year later, K-Rod over Axford looks like a real possibility. Axford, who was stellar in racking up an NL-high 46 saves last year, blew his sixth save and took his sixth loss when he gave up three runs in the ninth Monday against the Cardinals. In his defense, none of the three hits he gave up were all that well struck. However, he put himself in a bad situation by walking two batters.

K-Rod hasn’t exactly been stellar himself, but he did pitch his fifth straight scoreless inning Monday. The stretch has lowered his ERA from 4.17  to 3.67. Axford is currently sitting at 5.35.

It’d be an interesting switch for the 42-47 Brewers. Rodriguez is a definite candidate to be traded if Milwaukee deems itself out of contention, and he’d likely be more attractive to suitors if he picked up a few saves over the next couple of weeks. He’s someone who could also potentially be moved in August, given his $8 million salary.

On the other hand, the Brewers are still hoping Axford is their long-term closer, and it wouldn’t be sending him a very good message to pull him in favor of someone who could be dealt at any time. If the Brewers do make the switch, they should advertise as a short-term move and tell Axford he’ll get his job back if he performs.

Dallas Keuchel is unlikely to return before the All-Star break

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Astros’ left-hander Dallas Keuchel might not return to the rotation before the All-Star break, Houston manager A.J. Hinch told reporters prior to Sunday’s game. The club placed their star southpaw on the 10-day disabled list on June 8, retroactive to June 5, after a nerve issue was revealed in his neck.

Keuchel has taken a conservative approach to his recovery over the last several weeks, and while he appears to have made some progress, still has yet to throw off the mound. The injury interrupted the start of an outstanding run with the Astros, during which the 29-year-old lefty furnished a 9-0 record with a 1.67 ERA, 2.1 BB/9 and 8.2 SO/9 through his first 75 2/3 innings of 2017.

According to Hinch, it’s certainly possible that Keuchel could return to the team sometime within the next two weeks, but it’s clear that the team would prefer to play it extra safe with their ace. Even assuming that he feels ready to reclaim his spot on the Astros’ pitching staff, he still needs to complete a few key activities before competing in another game — like throwing off a mound, for example. In the meantime, Lance McCullers Jr. will continue to head Houston’s rotation as they try to build on their 12.5-game lead in the AL West.

 

Hinch’s full comments are below:

The Mets are promoting Tim Tebow to Single-A St. Lucie

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Mets GM Sandy Alderson told the media on Sunday that the organization is promoting outfielder Tim Tebow from Single-A Columbia to advanced Single-A St. Lucie, MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo reports.

Tebow, 29, wasn’t hitting particularly well to merit the promotion. Across 241 plate appearances with Columbia, he hit .222/.311/.340 with three home runs and 22 RBI. He had just seven extra-base hits (all doubles) in his most recent 20 games. Alderson, however, defended the decision by citing Tebow’s exit velocity and other metrics.

I think we can all agree that the real reason is that promoting Tebow creates another opportunity for the Mets to sell merchandise with his name on it.

One has to feel for the outfielder Tebow will displace. St. Lucie’s regular outfielders have comparable stats to Tebow’s, so they aren’t exactly being replaced on merit. That outfielder will see less playing time, hurting his future prospects. Adding Tebow to St. Lucie’s roster will push someone off of the roster, which will also harm that player’s future prospects. And, remember, these players don’t make much money to begin with.