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.
Arizona has done little to address its catching depth since trading Miguel Montero, but Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com reports that the Diamondbacks are bringing in journeyman catcher Gerald Laird on a minor-league deal.
Laird spent the past two seasons in Atlanta, hitting well in 2013 and poorly in 2014 while playing 2-3 times per week in both years. At age 35 he’d be stretched in a full-time job, but Laird has generally been productive in a backup role.
He’ll compete for a roster spot with the likes of Tuffy Gosewisch, Oscar Hernandez, and Matt Pagnozzi.
Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton, whose 2014 season ended on September 11 when he suffered facial fractures from a hit by pitch, will wear a protective guard on his helmet this year.
Stanton signed a $325 million contract extension in November and has been cleared for all physical activity, but the 25-year-old outfielder told Peter Gammons of MLB Network that he’s yet to regain full feeling in his lip and is planning to wear the added protection all season assuming it doesn’t hinder his vision at the plate during spring training.
Despite missing much of the season’s final month Stanton led the National League with 37 homers in 2014 and finished runner-up in the MVP voting to Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers.
Ubaldo Jimenez was a mess last season, losing his rotation spot and immediately making the Orioles regret signing him to a four-year, $50 million deal.
But at the team’s fan fest event he seemed optimistic about turning things around:
I can’t wait. Whatever happened in 2014 is in the past. There’s nothing I can do about it now. I can just look forward and now I’m going to do everything in spring training to get myself ready the best I can for the season and help the team.
Jimenez also said all the right things about continuing to work on his mechanics with the coaching staff and not worrying about his role:
My mechanics are not the mechanics you’re used to seeing every day with other pitchers. It takes a little bit more time, a little bit more hard work to get it going. I keep repeating it. The last couple–two or three–years I’ve been dealing with injuries, talking about leg-wise. Last year, I had the ankle problem, so that makes it a little more difficult to get it going.
It’s worth noting that Jimenez was already performing terribly and in danger of losing his rotation spot by the time he injured his ankle, but the stuff about his mechanics being a little trickier for a coaching staff to work with certainly seems valid.
Also worth noting: Jimenez had a 4.85 ERA in 125 innings for the Orioles and dating back to 2011 he has a 4.52 ERA in 673 total innings.
Steve Pearce and the Orioles have avoided arbitration with a one-year, $3.7 million deal.
It’s the first big payday for Pearce, who languished in the minors for a long time before getting an extended opportunity in Baltimore.
He hit .293 with 21 homers and a .930 OPS in 102 games last season, topping 200 plate appearances for the first time at age 31.