Axford seeks career comeback in Colorado

Rockies add veteran closer in effort to improve struggling 'pen

Axford seeks career comeback in Colorado

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The stats of the Rockies' bullpen last year didn't match the talents of the team's pitchers. In right-hander John Axford, they added a veteran who knows there is happiness on the other side.

Axford, who turns 32 on April 1, led the National League in saves with 46 for a 2011 Brewers team that went to the League Championship Series. But in 2012 he was part of a 'pen that led the league in blown saves.

"It seemed anyone who was in our bullpen that year was destined not to have an ERA under 4.00," said Axford, still bemused.

Last season Axford experienced it all. He began with the Indians and converted nine of his first 10 chances. He blew a save against the White Sox on May 4 and lost a 1-0 decision against the Twins the next day, and then the save chances disappeared. Traded to the Pirates in August, he was scoreless in 10 of his first 12 games. But in his 13th and last, he gave up a hit and two walks, then watched all three runners score on a grand slam in a key 10-6 loss to the Reds on Sept. 27.

Axford on fitting in with Rox

So Axford aims to rebound, as do the Rockies, who ended 2014 with the Majors' second-worst relief ERA at 4.79.

"When you talk about the arms here and the success that they've had in the past, but things like that happen," Axford said. "Hopefully, this year will be a bounce-back year for a lot of guys."

The deal for Axford, who had his contract selected by the Rockies on Sunday after the club placed right-hander Tyler Chatwood on the 60-day disabled list, shows that Colorado is counting on him after giving the righty a $2.6 million deal with another $1.5 million available in incentives. The possibility exists that LaTroy Hawkins, a teammate of Axford's in Milwaukee in 2010 and 2011, could cede some closing opportunities to Axford. A longer-term deal could be in his future.

"There were other opportunities, but I think being here was the best fit for me, and from the coaching and front-office standpoint they were showing interest as well," Axford said. "That opened my eyes. This team is willing to put forth that effort into me. I'm not taking things for granted, and hopefully things will work out soon."

Axford notches the save

Axford showed positive signs Saturday, his second time facing hitters, with nasty movement on his curve and slider. Catchers Wilin Rosario and Michael McKenry each sang his praises by the batting cage.

Axford said his control wasn't what he'd like, but be believes he can have an impact if he gains the command of his curve and slider that he expects.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page, Thomas Harding and Friends at www.Rockies.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.