It looks like John Axford is out as the Brewers’ closer

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Four days ago the Brewers said they were sticking with John Axford despite a rough start to the season, but now it looks like manager Ron Roenicke is making a change in the ninth inning.

Axford took the loss in yesterday’s game against the Diamondbacks, but only after throwing a scoreless 10th inning and then being asked to pitch the 11th inning too. It didn’t go well and now Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Roenicke dropped some serious hints about a change even though nothing is official yet:

Asked if there was a closing situation today against the Cubs if he would use Axford, Roenicke said, “I need to have a discussion with ‘Ax’ on what we plan to do. So, I really can’t give you an answer until I talk to him.”

Normally, when a manager says somethng like that, it means he hasn’t talked to the player yet about making  a change and therefore isn’t ready to tell the media.

Axford has a 20.25 ERA, allowing six runs in 2.2 innings while serving up four homers. He briefly lost the closer job last season, but then recovered to be one of the best relievers in baseball down the stretch. Presumably the fill-in will be setup man Jim Henderson, who has a 3.21 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 34 career innings.

The Nats want Trea Turner to attempt 75-80 stolen bases this year

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When it comes to cliche spring training stories, we talk a lot about “Best Shape of His Life.” Sometimes we talk about the “[Pitcher] has been working on a changeup” or “[Hitter] has made an adjustment to his swing” stories too. Then there’s the “we’re really going to focus on fundamentals” quotes managers love to give in February and March. They’re evergreens. 

Another one in that category is the “we’re going to run more” or “we plan to be aggressive on the base paths this year.” You hear that from at least one or two managers every spring. I imagine because, like the fundamentals one, it deals with something over which they have at least some moderate control. It’s a good quote.

We’re hearing it from Nats training camp this year with respect to one particularly speedy player in Trea Turner. From Mark Zuckerman at MASN:

Davey Martinez called Trea Turner into his office this week and told the speedy shortstop he wants him to attempt more stolen bases this season. How many? Let’s just say even the ultra-aggressive Turner was taken aback.

“Yeah, he gave me a number,” Turner said. “And I was like: ‘Wow, all right.’”

Martinez later revealed to assembled reporters that he thinks if Turner “attempts 75-80, we’ll be in great shape.”

Turner led the National League with 43 stolen bases on 52 attempts in 2018. The year before he attempted 54, which was his career high. Only only four players have attempted 80 or more stolen bases in the past ten years, so yes, 75-80 would be quite the escalation.

Which is not to say it’s silly. On a very basic level, yeah, if he is stealing bases more often, even without changing his basic approach, the Nats WILL be in great shape because it’ll likely mean that he’s on base more, and that’s good. If it’s merely a matter of him being more aggressive in the same number of times on base, well, let me know, but I’m not holding my breath.

I guess it’s nice to have goals, though.