John Axford signs with the Rockies

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Veteran reliever John Axford has signed a minor-league deal with the Rockies, according to MLB.com.

Axford was tabbed as the Indians’ closer to begin last season, but quickly lost the job and eventually wound up with the Pirates. Overall he threw 55 innings with a 3.92 ERA and 63/36 K/BB ratio.

Axford still has the raw stuff to rack up strikeouts, but his control is very shaky and he has a tendency to give up too many homers. Coors Field may not be the best fit for him, but he should be decent enough setting up for closer LaTroy Hawkins.

Thomas Harding of MLB.com says the deal will be worth $2.6 million plus incentives if Axford makes the Opening Day roster.

Erasmo Ramirez to be shut down with a minor lat strain

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Mariners right-hander Erasmo Ramirez has been shut down for two weeks with a minor lat strain, reports Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times. It’s a precautionary move, as Ramirez felt some tightness in his arm and could not complete his scheduled bullpen session on Saturday.

There’s no word yet on whether Ramirez will be able to recover in time for the start of the season, though he’s expected to claim a rotation spot again this spring. The 28-year-old righty has been dogged by injuries throughout his six-year career, but finally managed to piece together a full season on the mound in back-to-back stints with the Rays and Mariners in 2017. He went 5-6 in 19 starts for the two clubs and turned in a cumulative 4.39 ERA, 2.1 BB/9 and 7.5 SO/9 through 131 1/3 innings.

The Mariners are no stranger to pitcher injuries, either. They lost a number of their top arms to various elbow, arm and shoulder injuries last year and cycled through 40 total pitchers as they limped toward a 78-84 finish. Comments from club manager Scott Servais indicate that the team will keep a close eye on Ramirez throughout his recovery, though Divish notes that right-hander Andrew Moore and lefty Ariel Miranda could also slot into the no. 5 spot if Ramirez experiences further setbacks.