Dan Haren finally admits to back injury after latest clunker

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Dan Haren looked like his usual self through the first two months of the season, throwing 72 innings with a 3.52 ERA and 66/14 K/BB ratio.

Then the calendar flipped to June and he fell apart, allowing 29 runs in 32 innings–including nine homers–spread over six starts. The latest ugly outing came last night, as Haren surrendered seven runs while failing to make it out of the fifth inning against the Indians.

Afterward he finally admitted that the back problems that he managed to pitch through earlier this season are once again an issue and obviously have rendered him ineffective this time around:

It’s just a matter of getting a hold of it because I’m not helping the team right now going out there and pitching the way I am. I’ve tried to suck it up a little bit and do my best out there, but first and foremost is the team. Am I helping the team or hurting the team going out there? So, we’ll go from there.

Kevin Baxter of the Los Angeles Times reports that Haren will be examined by team doctors tomorrow and could be headed to the disabled list. That would be a first for Haren, who amazingly has never been on the DL in 10 seasons as a big leaguer and in fact has never even missed a start while topping 200 innings every year since 2005.

Blue Jays release John Axford

John Axford
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The Blue Jays have released right-handed reliever John Axford from his minor league contract, per an announcement on Saturday. Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi speculates that the move could provide an avenue for the club to rework Axford’s contract, but the Blue Jays have yet to confirm or deny the report.

Axford, 35, was dealt a blow on Thursday after getting diagnosed with a stress reaction in the olecranon bone of his right elbow. Elbow soreness dogged the right-hander through much of his time in camp, and although he was scheduled for a follow-up examination later this spring, a definite return date had not been established.

Prior to the diagnosis, Axford was tabbed for a setup role with the team in 2019. He pitched to mixed results in 2018 (thanks in part to a late-season fracture of his right fibula) with a 5.27 ERA, 4.9 BB/9, and 9.8 SO/9 through 54 2/3 innings with the Blue Jays and Dodgers. Now, however, it’s not certain that he’ll return to the mound this season in any capacity.

Axford isn’t the only reliever the Blue Jays have lost to injury lately, either, as right-handers Ryan Tepera and Bud Norris have been sidelined with right elbow inflammation and forearm fatigue, respectively. Per Davidi, the Blue Jays offered Norris a $100,000 retention bonus to prevent him from opting out of the minor league contract he signed in February.