Whicker: On Moving Day for relievers, Dodgers hope Axford cuts to the chase

first_img Cody Bellinger homer gives Dodgers their first walkoff win of season Dodgers hit seven home runs, sweep Colorado Rockies LOS ANGELES — From July 1 to Aug. 1, 20 major league relievers changed uniforms.That included Roberto Osuna, a domestic-violence defendant whose trial in Toronto hasn’t started yet. Also Jeurys Familia, who was suspended for the same thing last year. Most of the rest are marching to new teams like Valley Forge combatants, bandages shaped like question marks, up and down their arms. The supply was meager and the demand was desperate.The Dodgers celebrated the arrival of All-Star Manny Machado and powerful second baseman Brian Dozier, but their most important newcomer is a 35-year-old who now joins his seventh team since 2013.John Axford comes from Toronto, the team from his home province that enthralled him as a kid. He is a heavy movie aficionado who was a sponsor and presenter at the Milwaukee Film Festival each summer. His original sports hero was Rob Blake, now the Kings’ general manager and a fellow native of Simcoe, Ontario. July 31 is only a show deadline. Teams can sneak players through the waiver process and make deals until Aug. 31, as Houston did last year with Justin Verlander. So the Dodgers will keep looking. They could have gotten Baltimore’s Zach Britton or Texas’ Keone Kela.Their chances of going one game further than 2017 will depend on whether Axford or somebody else can pitch quiet innings between the starter’s departure and Jansen’s arrival.Dodger relievers rank ninth among 30 MLB clubs in WHIP (walks and hits, per innings pitched) but have surrendered 50 homers, second-most in the NL. They are the only contending bullpen to throw 400 innings this season. They also have 22 losses. Only Tampa Bay, Detroit and the Mets have lost more.Kenta Maeda could again become Jansen’s lead-in during the playoffs. But October is not promised, not with Arizona picking up Jake Diekman and Brad Ziegler for its own bullpen. Every National League contender did something significant, none more so than Philadelphia’s pickup of catcher Wilson Ramos from Tampa Bay.Roberts said he doesn’t feel handcuffed by the fluid bullpen situation, not that he has much choice.Related Articles Fire danger is on Dave Roberts’ mind as Dodgers head to San Francisco “It’s actually easier,” he said, “We have a lot of different looks in the bullpen, high spin-rate guys, slider guys, guys who can make them put the ball on the ground. And we have guys who realize they’re here to win a championship, that everybody has to be unselfish. A lot of conversations go into that.”He grinned. “Those are high-class problems,” he said.Roberts also said Dozier wouldn’t necessarily be playing second base every day, not with Chris Taylor and Chase Utley needing time. And with Justin Turner returning, where does Max Muncy play, and how does that affect Cody Bellinger, and how much time will Kiké Hernandez get to master all of his trades?Tony Cingrani and Josh Fields will presumably return to the bullpen at some point, and the rotation is so jammed, even without Hyun-Jin Ryu, that Ross Stripling had to be disabled with a conveniently inflamed toe.“It’s ironic that a lot of other teams who might have resisted that approach are doing it now,” Roberts said. “This game is evolving. We’ve been on the front side of that. It doesn’t matter when you get into the batter’s box or onto the mound. You might not be asked to do the same thing every day.”That’s all fine, but if Axford wants to make the eighth inning his own, he will have permission. The seventh is available, too.center_img Dodgers’ Max Muncy trying to work his way out of slow start Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Axford also went through hell in spring training of 2015, when his 2-year-old son Jameson was bitten twice by a rattlesnake during spring training, when John was working for the Rockies in Arizona. The fear was that Jameson would lose a foot but he recovered.Sign up for our Inside the Dodgers newsletter. Be the best Dodger fan you can be by getting daily intel on your favorite team. Subscribe here.Axford saved 95 games in a three-year span for Milwaukee, before he got to know the moving van drivers on a first-name basis. He had a dreadful 2017 with Oakland when he walked 17 in 21 innings, but he got healthy and stabilized himself by throwing more sinkers with Toronto. He’s right-handed, but lefties are 10 for 68 against him this year.“We’re looking for guys who can get lefties and righties out, instead of having to match up,” said Dave Roberts, the Dodgers manager.Joe Blanton took care of the eighth inning in 2016 for the Dodgers, and Brendan Morrow did the same last year. That, like everything else, is more complicated now.“Last year we had a pretty good lead at this point,” said Farhan Zaidi, the assistant general manager. “This year we’re fighting to get into the playoffs. So we’re more conscious of August and September.” How Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling topped the baseball podcast empire last_img

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