Struggling Axford removed from closer role

Betancourt, Kahnle, Miller each expected to see time at end of games

Struggling Axford removed from closer role

ST. LOUIS -- John Axford's search for his form will take place at times other than save situations for the Rockies.

After four blown saves and a 19.64 ERA in his last five outings, Axford learned Friday that manager Walt Weiss will use other pitchers in the closing role for now.

Axford agreed that the move could be best for the team and him. He compared it to 2012 with the Brewers, when he blew seven of his first 25 save chances, stepped out of the role briefly, then converted all but one of his 18 save chances.

"I'm not so bullheaded as to say that I want to pitch in the ninth inning and that's how it has to be," Axford said. "I have pitched in other innings and I've had success in other innings. A lot of my success has come in the ninth, but that's also where some of the pain comes.

"Stepping away definitely could be beneficial. It's worked before for me. It worked in 2012."

Axford entered Friday night's 7-0 loss to the Cardinals in the seventh inning, and struck out two in a scoreless inning of relief.

Weiss said veteran Rafael Betancourt, with extensive experience as the Rockies' closer, will receive some chances, but he would also like to see Tommy Kahnle and Justin Miller -- who was a closer at the Triple-A level -- in the role.

"I had a conversation with John a little earlier and I told him I was going to get him out of that ninth inning for a little bit and let him catch his breath," manager Walt Weiss said Friday -- a day after Axford walked three and gave up two hits while blowing the save in a 9-8 loss to the Cardinals.

Worth noting

• Rockies left fielder Carlos Gonzalez said he wasn't particularly nervous about Friday's non-waiver Trade Deadline even though his name came up periodically in rumors and reports. He has been strikingly productive with the bat, with eight home runs and 16 RBIs in eight games leading to the Deadline.

He said discussions with Weiss led him to expect to still be with the Rockies after the deadline. Before the Deadline, reports surfaced that the Rockies were willing to revisit possible post-deadline deals. If Gonzalez clears waivers -- which is expected, since a team is unlikely to claim a contract that costs a new team $37 million over the next two years -- the Rockies can trade him. If dealt, he will have to be with his new squad by Aug. 31 to be allowed to be placed on a playoff roster.

"I never really paid attention before the Deadline, so I don't think that's going to change," he said.

Like any high-priced player on a team whose winning looks to be later rather than in the near future, Gonzalez will be a source of rumor. Will the Rockies use him to receive multiple parts to build on, rather than build around his contribution?

"I want to be here when the Rockies are good," Gonzalez said. "I still have two more years on the contract. One of my main reasons was to win a championship here. I hope whatever they've done so far and whatever they're going to do for the future is going to be best for the club. I want to be part of it."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.