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A's designate veteran Axford, activate Dull

Melvin says rebuilding club wants to get a look at new relievers
MLB.com @JaneMLB

TORONTO -- The A's parted ways with veteran right-hander John Axford on Thursday morning, designating the Canadian reliever for assignment ahead of their series finale in Toronto.

Axford, 34, has struggled for much of the season since coming off his first career disabled list stint May 20, pitching to a 6.43 ERA in 22 appearances. The rebuilding A's have been getting younger all the while, influencing their corresponding move for reliever Ryan Dull, fresh off the DL, on Thursday.

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TORONTO -- The A's parted ways with veteran right-hander John Axford on Thursday morning, designating the Canadian reliever for assignment ahead of their series finale in Toronto.

Axford, 34, has struggled for much of the season since coming off his first career disabled list stint May 20, pitching to a 6.43 ERA in 22 appearances. The rebuilding A's have been getting younger all the while, influencing their corresponding move for reliever Ryan Dull, fresh off the DL, on Thursday.

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Dull entered in the eighth inning of the 8-4, 10-inning loss and pitched two-thirds of an inning, allowing one hit and striking out one.

"Based on the direction we're going, what's been said here recently by the higher-ups in our organization, that is the direction we're going," A's manager Bob Melvin said before the game. "If it was different, maybe you stick with a veteran guy a little bit longer, someone we brought in here for a couple of years, but with Ryan Dull coming back, we certainly want him in there, and we're taking a look at some other guys as well."

The A's can trade, waive or release Axford in the next seven days and, if released, are responsible for the remainder of his $5.5 million salary.

Axford has 21 strikeouts in as many innings, but he's also issued 17 walks, and opponents are batting .310 against him since his return from a shoulder injury.

"Mechanically, he was a little bit out of sync," Melvin said. "He'd get 3-2, then he'd yank the ball off the plate. He's not trying to do it, just having trouble with his mechanics for a period of time. And when you're struggling some, you don't get regular work and that can affect you, too. So I think it was a combination of those things."

Despite his recent dip in production, Axford was highly respected in the A's clubhouse as a veteran presence with a genial demeanor.

"That was a tough one," Melvin said. "Everybody is really fond of John Axford around here. Admittedly, he'll even tell you his performance wasn't great this year up to this point, but if you're around us and kind of understand who he is, he is a great resource for younger players. He handles himself beautifully in the clubhouse, he's all about the team.

"I'd be surprised if he didn't get a chance here this year. He's still throwing 97 mph, just having a difficult time locating. So, we will miss him around here, but we wish him the best, and my guess is he is going to sign somewhere else."

Axford isn't the only A's veteran reliever stumbling this season; Santiago Casilla suffered his sixth blown save Wednesday night, leaving Melvin contemplating a changing of the guard in the ninth inning ahead of Thursday's contest. Sure enough, with a one-run lead in hand entering the ninth, Melvin kept the ball in the hands of right-hander Blake Treinen, who surrendered a game-tying home run to Kendrys Morales that ended with Steve Pearce's walk-off grand slam against Liam Hendriks in the 10th.

"We did a little something different today," Melvin said after the game. "Gave Casilla a break today. Treinen's pitched really well for us, and you're talking about one pitch. It looked like it was down to me, and a pretty hot hitter put a good swing on it."

When asked how he'll proceed with the ninth inning after the game, Melvin said, "We'll see how it goes. I'm not sure."

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010.

John Axford