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Axelrod gets the call for Cactus League opener

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- With members of the rotation not scheduled to get into Cactus League action until Chris Sale pitches on March 1, some of the younger hurlers will move to center stage during the first week of Spring Training.

Dylan Axelrod falls a step ahead of some of those fast-rising prospects, with 99 days of Major League experience. But in handling Saturday's Cactus League opener, against the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch, the 27-year-old is still more than ready to take advantage of the opportunity.

"We are all excited to get started," Axelrod said. "It really feels like the start of the season, almost. It's an honor to get out there first and just start my season off on the right note. No matter what happens, just control what I can and do my best."

Axelrod posted a 5.47 ERA in 14 games -- seven of which were starts -- last year. If John Danks is healthy and ready to break camp with the team, it's unlikely Axelrod goes to Chicago, and even if Danks starts the season on the disabled list, Axelrod might not be next in line. Axelrod also knows from last year that one or two injuries could lead to a big league call.

"Things can change quickly," he said, "so I don't try to look at things too in-depth or play that game. It's tough to figure things out. So I just try to do the best I can, and I have faith something will happen for me down the road. And you know, I'll be ready."

"He's a quality pitcher. He knows what he's doing," said manager Robin Ventura. "He knows what he's got. He's not afraid of going out there, even though it's Opening Day of Spring Training, so he's kind of moved up the ladder as far as maturity level."