At the end of July, amid an epic, multi-game meltdown of the Brewers bullpen, Ron Roenicke decided to go to a closer-by-committee approach. That’s over now, and John Axford has his old job back, it seems. Axford was put in after the Brewers turned a 5-0 lead into a save situation against the Cubs last night. And Roenicke liked what he saw:
“This is a guy we would obviously like to be in that closer role,” Roenicke said. “And the reason we took him out of it is to try and do what’s best for him to get back into that role. I think when he was out of it, I think he pitched well enough to allow us the confidence that we think we can put him back in there now.”
Overall Axford hasn’t exactly been lights-out since he was pulled from the closer’s role, so it’s not like he’s a new man or something. But it’s at least worth Milwaukee figuring out what they have with him now, when the games no longer really matter as opposed to going into the offseason unsure of it.
Clayton Kershaw had nothing left to prove when he exited the mound during his last Cactus League start on Friday. He finished camp with a 0.00 ERA, made all the more impressive after he extended his scoreless streak to 21 1/3 innings following 6 2/3 frames of one-hit ball against the Royals.
In six spring training starts this year, the Dodgers southpaw racked up 12 hits, four walks and 23 strikeouts. His velocity appeared to fluctuate between the high-80s and low-90s from start to start, but manager Dave Roberts told reporters that he expects Kershaw to get back up to the 93 m.p.h. range next week. Kershaw is tabbed for his eighth consecutive Opening Day start on Thursday.
The 30-year-old lefty is poised to enter his 11th season with the club in 2018. He went 18-4 in 27 starts last year and turned in a 2.31 ERA, 1.5 BB/9 and 10.4 SO/9 over 175 innings. He suffered his fair share of bumps and bruises along the way, including a lower back strain that required a five-week stay on the disabled list.
The Dodgers will open their season against the Giants on Thursday, March 29 at 7:08 PM ET. Given the sudden rash of injuries that hit the Giants’ rotation earlier today, Kershaw’s Opening Day opponent has not yet been announced.