Terry Francona wants John Axford back in the closer’s role eventually

3 Comments

About a month ago, Indians manager Terry Francona took John Axford out of the closer’s role after the right-hander had compiled a 4.91 ERA in 14 2/3 innings while blowing two saves and losing three games. Since then, the Indians have used Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, Scott Atchison, and Mark Rzepczynski to nail down saves and it’s been working out well.

As MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports, however, Francona would like to see Axford back in the closer’s role eventually even though his current corps of hurlers are getting the job done. Since his demotion into lower-leverage innings, Axford has a 1.08 ERA with 11 strikeouts and four walks in 8 1/3 innings.

Hunter Pence is mashing for the Rangers

Stephen Brashear/Getty Images
4 Comments

Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.

Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.

Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.

What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.

That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.