John Axford

Indians take John Axford out of his role as closer

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The struggling John Axford is officially off of closer’s duty for the Indians, per Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer. Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, Scott Atchison, and Marc Rzepczynski will share the role as closer, Hoynes adds.

Axford, signed to a one-year, $4.5 million deal in December, has posted a 4.91 ERA. The struggles have been prominent recently, as the right-hander has allowed runs in three out of his last four appearances. While Axford has struck out 15 batters in 14 2/3 innings, he has also walked 13 and allowed three home runs. MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports that manager Terry Francona hopes to get Axford back into the ninth inning once he straightens out.

Axford, 31, struggled in 2012 and ’13 with the Brewers, prompting a late-August trade to the Cardinals last season, where he appeared to find himself, posting a 1.74 ERA in 10 1/3 innings through the end of the season. Unfortunately, it appears to have been a fluke.

Report: Rays nearing a deal with Shawn Tolleson

ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 18: Reliever Shawn Tolleson #37 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals in the eighth inning at Busch Stadium on June 18, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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Update (6:48 PM EST): Topkin reports the contract will be of the major league variety.

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Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that the Rays and free agent reliever Shawn Tolleson are close to finalizing a contract.

Tolleson, who turns 29 years old on Thursday, had an ugly 2016 season, finishing with a 7.68 ERA and a 29/10 K/BB ratio in 36 1/3 innings. He was one of the Rangers’ best relievers in the two seasons prior to that, however, which included saving 35 games in 2015.

President Obama pardons Willie McCovey

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 06:  San Francisco Giants legend Willie McCovey  waves to the crowd while seating between Jeff Kent (L) and Willie Mays during a ceremony honoring Buster Posey for winning the 2012 National League MVP before the Giants game against the St. Louis Cardinals at AT&T Park on April 6, 2013 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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The big presidential pardon news today concerns the commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence. We’ll leave that aside. For our purposes, know that someone in the world of baseball was pardoned: Willie McCovey.

Yes, Hall of Famer Willie McCovey, who in 1995 pleaded guilty to income tax fraud related to the non-reporting of income received from memorabilia and autograph shows. Duke Snider pleaded guilty alongside McCovey. They were given two years probation and fines of $5,000. Snider died in 2011. McCovey still works with the San Francisco Giants as a senior advisor and goodwill ambassador.

President Obama’s release of McCovey’s pardon was pretty succinct. But it’s enough to scrub the record of one of the greatest sluggers of all time.