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Axford talks differences of pitching for St. Louis

ST. LOUIS -- Former Brewers reliever John Axford spoke with fondness Tuesday about his tenure in Milwaukee and said he was adjusting to the differences of playing for the Cardinals, even if he couldn't -- or wouldn't -- explain exactly what those differences are.

"It has been different, but it's definitely good," Axford said before his old team met his new one at Busch Stadium. "I think I like that, also, that you get a different change of scenery and get to experience things a little differently, when things are done a little bit differently. That's all part of the experience, I guess."

Asked to expound on how the Cardinals do things differently, Axford said, "I don't know. There are some things you can just feel, and some things you can just tell. The way things are in the clubhouse, I guess it's just an all-encompassing thing of sorts. You can just tell the way things are and the way things are different here compared to the Brewers."

The Brewers traded Axford to the Cardinals on Aug. 30, deciding that getting another strong-armed reliever in return -- right-hander Michael Blazek -- was better than letting Axford go after the season for nothing. He is earning $5 million this season and has three years of arbitration eligibility remaining, so the Brewers would have non-tendered Axford in December, making him a free agent.

The Cardinals may opt for the same course of action, but Axford nonetheless has embraced his change of scenery. He surrendered two earned runs in his first five appearances with St. Louis.

"It seemed like Milwaukee was coming to an end for me, and it was time to carry on and go somewhere else and start new once again," Axford said. "Milwaukee gave me a huge opportunity, the Brewers gave me a huge opportunity, and I took advantage of it the best I could and did a great job the best I could for as long as I could. I guess, over the last couple of seasons, things haven't worked out quite as well, and maybe what's needed was another change."

Axford set a Brewers record with 46 saves in 2011 and played a significant role in the club's National League Central crown and its deep run in the postseason. But he struggled through the middle section of '12, then faltered again earlier this season and was replaced in the closer's role by Jim Henderson.

His first two weeks with the Cardinals have been interesting. Axford missed his first game because of travel issues at Chicago's O'Hare Airport, including weather and a fire on the runway, and was ejected in his fourth outing after hitting the Pirates' Tony Sanchez with a high-and-tight fastball. Both teams had been warned by home-plate umpire Tony Randazzo earlier in the game.

Axford, who said he'd never been ejected at any level, is still awaiting word from Major League Baseball about whether he will be fined.

"I'm sure if I just brushed a jersey or got someone on the thigh, it would have been no big deal," Axford said. "But because it was 96 [mph] and the shoulder, it's a little different story."

His new team enters its series against the Brewers on a hot streak. The Cardinals swept the second-place Pirates over the weekend and entered play Tuesday with a one-game lead in the NL Central.

"It was huge," Axford said. "A lot of fun, a lot of energy here. The team is excited. You can get a sense of that just being in the clubhouse. You don't even have to talk a lot or discuss it, you can just feel it. That's a great thing to have around you right now. It's fantastic."

He was eager to pitch against his old teammates.

"I am definitely looking forward to getting in there." Axford said. "It will be fun. I'm sure it will be odd from both sides, so we'll see how it goes."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy.
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