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Dodgers legend Don Newcombe dies at 92

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Dodgers great Don Newcombe has died at the age of 92.

Newcombe was one of the first African-American pitchers in major league baseball, and was the first African-American pitcher who pitched in the majors in his prime. He began in the Negro Leagues in 1944 but moved to the majors in 1949 at the age of 22, winning the Rookie of the Year Award and helping the Brooklyn Dodgers win the NL pennant. He also joined Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella and Larry Doby as the first African-American players in the All-Star Game that season.

Newcombe went 20-5 with a 3.20 ERA as the ace of the Dodgers staff in 1955, leading the club to its first ever World Series title. His best season came in 1956 when he won 27 games, winning both the Cy Young Award and the National League MVP Award.

1956 was certainly Newcombe’s peak, and after a decline that he’d later attribute to alcohol abuse, he finished his 10-year MLB career with stints in Cincinnati and Cleveland, calling it quits after the 1960 season with a 149-90 record and 3.56 ERA. He was a four-time All-Star.

A statement released by the Dodgers:

Rest in peace to a legend.

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.