Pirates claim John Axford off waivers from Indians

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Looking to add more bullpen help after the Jason Grilli-for-Ernesto Frieri swap worked out so horribly the Pirates have acquired right-hander John Axford from the Indians, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com.

Axford signed a one-year, $4.5 million deal to be the Indians’ closer, but instead was quickly stripped of ninth-inning duties and has spent most of the season in a setup role without being particularly effective with a 3.91 ERA and 30 walks in 44 innings.

Axford still throws really hard and still misses plenty of bats with 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings, but between his poor control and problems keeping the ball in the ballpark he’s posted a combined 4.25 ERA in 200 appearances since 2012.

In what proved to be his final Indians appearance Axford walked three batters and allowed four runs while recording two outs last week, which inflated his ERA from 3.14 to 3.91. He’ll work in a setup role in front of closer Mark Melancon.

UPDATE: It’s a straight-up waiver claim, so the Indians basically said “OK, take him” to the Pirates, who’re now responsible for the $1.1 million left on Axford’s deal.

A.J. Hinch responds to Ken Giles’ negative comments about Astros

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On Sunday, Blue Jays closer Ken Giles spoke to Rosie DiManno of the Toronto Star. Giles said, “I’m actually enjoying the game more than I did for my entire tenure in Houston.” Giles won a World Series with the Astros last year, but talked about communication issues with the Astros and compared them unfavorably to the Blue Jays. Giles described the communication as having been “lost” and credited the Jays for staying patient with him.

Astros manager A.J. Hinch responded to Giles’ comments on Monday. Per Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi, Hinch said:

I think he’s wrong and I’m disappointed that he would go down that path given how much work and time and energy and communication that our front office, our coaching staff, me, we all went through this with him. And I understand, there was some disappointment in his tenure as an Astro because of the turbulent way things went about. We gave him every opportunity, we communicated with him effectively, we have an incredible culture where every single player will tell you it’s one of the best cultures they’ve had, one of the best communication envrionments they’ve had. They all know their roles. They all know their situations. To have one person out of all the guys in our clubhouse come out and claim otherwise is flat wrong.

While Giles certainly could be embellishing or deliberately misconstruing his time there, Hinch’s rebuttal doesn’t actually disqualify anything Giles said. Giles certainly could have had a negative experience in Houston even if everyone else was enjoying the “incredible culture” and “one of the best communication environments.”

Given how the Astros — including Hinch — responded to criticism about their acquiring an accused domestic abuser, they’re not in the best position to boast about an “incredible culture” anyway.

At any rate, this is a he-said, he-said situation. If anything more comes of it, it will be Giles further torching a bridge.