The Pirates claimed former Indians closer John Axford off of outright trade waivers late Thursday afternoon, meaning that while the Indians won’t receive compensation for him, Pittsburgh pays the approximately $1.1 million remaining on the right-hander’s salary this season.
The Indians signed Axford to a one-year, $4.5 million deal in mid-December. But the 6-foot-5, 220-pounder was out as the Tribe’s closer by May 9th when his command issues became all too evident.
Since then, Axford has worked hard with pitching coach Mickey Callaway to regain a majority of his form, and even made the final five outs Aug 4th against the visiting Cincinnati Reds to notch his first save since May 3.
But just when it appeared that the old dominating Axford was back, he took a step back. In Axford’s most recent appearance - Friday against host New York - Axford dished up a grand slam to Yankees slugger Carlos Beltran in the Tribe’s 10-6 loss in the Bronx.
In addition to his periodic struggles, the Indians aren’t the kind of team that can afford to pay a middle reliever big bucks, especially when young stopper Cody Allen seamlessly claimed the closer’s role in Axford’s absence.
Thus, Axford, 31, finished his brief Indians career with a 2-3 record, 3.92 ERA and 10 saves. In 43 2/3 innings, the Ontario native struck out 51 batters and issued 30 walks.
In a brief official statement released not long after national baseball sources began to leak the news on Twitter Thursday – a scheduled off day for the team - the Indians said they will make a corresponding 25-man roster move Friday.