Indians to sign John Axford

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ESPN’s Buster Olney is reporting that the Indians are expected to sign free agent reliever John Axford. We learned earlier that Indians president Mark Shapiro was expecting to sign a reliever soon and he moved quickly in talks with Axford.

Axford was non-tendered by the Cardinals on December 2 and has drawn interest from a number of teams, including the Orioles, Cubs, and Mariners. The right-hander should be expected to close, while Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw remain in their eighth-inning roles. Axford had lost his role as closer with the Brewers to Jim Henderson, and the Brewers eventually traded Axford to the Cardinals for Michael Blazek at the end of August, so it will be compelling to see if he can bounce back in the ninth inning.

Update: MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian confirms. The deal is pending a physical. Bastian adds:

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with left ankle injury

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Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.

The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.