Rockies reliever John Axford has hit the skids as of late, allowing runs in five consecutive appearances with four blown saves. He’s forked over eight runs on eight hits and eight walks with four strikeouts. As Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post details, manager Walt Weiss has removed Axford from the closer’s role.
Weiss didn’t name a successor, but mentioned that Rafael Betancourt, Tommy Kahnle, and Justin Miller as candidates to handle save situations.
“We have a few different options down there, so it will probably come down match-ups and who is available,” Weiss said. “So there will be a few different guys throwing at the end.”
Overall this season, the 32-year-old Axford has a 4.45 ERA with a 29/19 K/BB ratio in 30 1/3 innings. He wasn’t expected to handle closing duties at the start of the season, but Betancourt struggled and Adam Ottavino underwent Tommy John surgery.
Phillies star outfielder Bryce Harper played some third base during Monday’s intrasquad game at Citizens Bank Park, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports. Harper had been pestering manager Joe Girardi for the opportunity and the skipper finally gave in.
Girardi told Harper, “No diving. And make sure your arm is loose.” Harper had the opportunity to field one ball, a grounder to his left and he made the play perfectly.
Why put Harper at third base? Girardi said, “I think it’s important the guys have fun. I saw him a week ago taking ground balls there and I was impressed. His hands worked well out front and he threw the ball across the field well. I told him, ‘You look good there.'”
Despite the solid showing, don’t expect Harper to show up at third base in a meaningful game anytime soon. That being said, the Phillies’ second and third base situations are still not cemented. Jean Segura will likely open the season at the hot corner with Scott Kingery at second, but things could change between now and Opening Day in 10 days.
Harper, 27, is coming off a solid first season with the Phillies. He hit .260/.372/.510 with 36 doubles, 35 home runs, 114 RBI, 98 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases across 682 plate appearances. Per FanGraphs, Harper’s 4.6 Wins Above Replacement ranked 16th in the National League. For some people, those numbers weren’t nearly good enough, so the expectations remain high as Harper enters year two of his 13-year, $330 million contract.