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Report: Blue Jays, John Axford nearing contract agreement

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Jon Heyman reports that the Blue Jays and reliever John Axford are close to an agreement on a contract.

Axford, 35, opened the 2018 season with the Blue Jays before being sent to the Dodgers at the non-waiver trade deadline. He put up a 4.41 ERA in 51 innings with the Jays. He only pitched 3 2/3 innings for the Dodgers as he suffered a fractured fibula when he was hit by a comebacker in mid-August, missing over a month of action.

Axford was born in Simcoe, Canada, roughly an hour and a half drive southwest of Toronto. He said last month he hoped to return to the Jays. Per Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith, Axford said, “That’s where I want to be.”

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.