Brewers closer John Axford is off to a rough start, allowing three homers and a total of six hits in 11 plate appearances while working with decreased velocity.
Axford says he feels fine physically and Adam McCalvy of MLB.com writes that the Brewers are unlikely to make any quick decisions about removing him as closer, but manager Ron Roenicke did sound a little worried when he said the right-hander’s velocity “was way down, so we’ll talk to him and see how he’s doing.”
McCalvy reports that Jim Henderson would be “Plan B” for the Brewers after racking up 45 strikeouts in 31 innings as a 29-year-old rookie last season, but it’s worth noting that Axford went through a rough patch last year–even losing the closer job briefly–and bounced back to convert 17 of his final 18 save chances with 30 strikeouts in 19 innings after mid-August.
The Red Sox signed catcher Christian Vazquez to a three-year, $13.55 million extension, per a team announcement on Saturday. The agreement will keep Vazquez under contract through the 2021 season and covers two years of arbitration eligibility and the catcher’s first year of free agency. It comes with a $7 million club option (and $250,000 buyout) for 2022 that could get bumped up to $8 million if he reaches 502 plate appearances in both 2020 and 2021. Vazquez has also volunteered to make an annual donation to the Red Sox Foundation as part of his new arrangement with the club.
The 27-year-old backstop is entering his fourth year with the Red Sox in 2018. He’s been a steady defender behind the dish over the last three years and was ranked fifth-best in defense among all American League catchers at the end of the 2017 season. He also enjoyed a breakout performance at the plate, slashing a career-best .290/.330/.404 with five home runs and a .735 OPS in 345 plate appearances.
Come Opening Day, Vazquez is expected to be the Red Sox’ primary option behind the plate, with veteran Sandy Leon and Blake Swihart poised to start in backup roles. Swihart is out of options, but has been groomed for a utility role this spring and could take a few reps in the left field and the infield corners if need be, as it doesn’t appear the club is prepared to trade him just yet.