Axford's closer job safe, Roenicke says

Axford's closer job safe, Roenicke says

Axford's closer job safe, Roenicke says
MINNEAPOLIS -- John Axford is still in line to close for the Brewers despite his recent struggles, manager Ron Roenicke said.

Axford pitched in his third consecutive game on Friday, working a scoreless ninth to preserve a 5-3 victory and earn his 11th save.

Roenicke said before the game that only fatigue from Axford's back-to-back appearances on Wednesday and Thursday would potentially keep him from closing on Friday against the Twins. Axford threw a total of 47 pitches during two blown saves each of the last two days.

"I'll talk to [pitching coach] Rick [Kranitz] and see how he's doing," Roenicke said. "If he still feels good, he'll be out there."

The right-hander matched his blown save total for all of 2011 with Wednesday and Thursday's games alone. Axford surrendered two walks and a triple on Wednesday in Kansas City, allowing the Royals to push the game to extra innings and eventually win in 11.

Axford appeared more in control on Thursday, striking out two of the first three batters he faced. But a wild pitch on one of those strikeouts put a runner on first, and an ensuing walk and single sealed Milwaukee's fate.

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But Roenicke thinks Axford is wired well mentally to rebound from such struggles. Axford successfully converted 10 of 11 save opportunities this season before Wednesday.

"I think his personality is really good for the times when he does give it up," Roenicke said. "I guess more concerning would be he hasn't had that long stretch this year where he's been lights out. That's more concerning."

Roenicke said Axford might simply be trying to do too much, noting his velocity has been higher than it was last season. Axford also hasn't commanded his off-speed pitches as well as he did last year, according to Roenicke.

"We'll try to figure out what's going on with him," Roenicke said. "He still feels confident. He's still healthy. We know he'll get back."