Axford making case for All-Star selection
SAN FRANCISCO -- Rockies closer John Axford politely and efficiently wrapped up conversations by his locker Saturday morning, then opened his phone and studied the stats of his peers before casting his All-Star Game votes. Will the numbers and the ballots also work for Axford?
It looks as if fans won't vote third baseman Nolan Arenado, whose numbers could put him in line for the National League Most Valuable Player award if they continue, or second baseman DJ LeMahieu as starters, but it's hard not to think they'll be taken care of through the player/coach/manager voting Axford and his teammates were completing Saturday. NL manager Bruce Bochy also has picks.
With ballots having just three spots for relievers, Axford's season takes further examination than the numbers. His 13 saves entering Saturday ranked tied for 10th in the NL, but he is the Rockies' third closer, after LaTroy Hawkins struggled and Adam Ottavino suffered a season-ending elbow injury. Axford missed time early after his son was bitten by a rattlesnake in March.
Still, Axford has blown just one save and has been scored upon just twice. And he has worked sporadically, with a Rockies 11-game losing streak and a 1-9 stretch reducing his chances. But if Axford is in folks' minds, it's a victory for a guy who took a non-roster contract before Spring Training.
"When you get the ballots, it's something to think about, but as far as my season is going, the goal is to play to the best level I can," Axford said. "To be rewarded one way or another and if one of those deals is to be in the All-Star Game, it's great. But we have a lot of guys in this room who can potentially be rewarded."
It's a comeback of sorts for Axford, who began last year as the Indians' closer, lost the job, then finished in a setup role with the Pirates.
The $2.6 million deal with incentives that should kick in soon has thus far turned out to be beneficial for Axford and the club. Axford said he will finish the season two days shy of free agency, so he'll be eligible for arbitration. Axford noted the decision is fully with the Rockies, but if the club wanted to sign him into his free-agency years, "I'm not going to close any doors." Axford has been popular with fans and teammates and likes Colorado.
"I'm enjoying my time here, and the organization has been great to me with everything that's happened to me personally," Axford said. "I definitely have a comfort level here."
• Reliever Tommy Kahnle's messy ninth inning in Friday night's Rockies victory (three runs, two hits, three walks) lifted his ERA from 1.46 to 3.38, but it didn't shake manager Walt Weiss' faith that he has a late-innings future.
"Command got away from him, but I always have confidence that Tommy's not going to be hit hard," Weiss said. "If he throws strikes, he's going to be all right."