Closing Thoughts: John Axford now just 593 saves behind Hoffman on the all-time list

Andy Behrens
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Milwaukee manager Ken Macha seems to be approaching the Trevor Hoffman(notes) situation in exactly the same way that lame duck politicians approach large, intractable problems. He's leaving the mess for the next guy. Macha isn't quite willing to elevate John Axford(notes) (pictured) to the full-time closer's role, nor is he willing to fire Hoffman. Instead, he's apparently just waiting to be fired himself.

Axford recorded his third career save on Saturday, preserving an 8-6 lead over Mets, but Macha declined to officially name the 27-year-old his new closer. These were a few of his postgame comments, via's Adam McCalvy:

"I'm not eliminating Trevor," said Macha, referring to all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman. "I want to give [Hoffman] a few more innings. But it's going to be nice if we have coverage like that."


"There's no problem having a couple [options]," Macha said. "My last year in Oakland, we had six guys with saves. I'd like to get Trevor back. … The more guys you're can bring in pressure situations and they're able to get outs, that makes your bullpen that much stronger."

And then he added something nice about LaTroy Hawkins(notes), which I refuse to republish because … well, c'mon. He's LaTroy.

Axford has been outstanding since he was called up from Triple-A Nashville on May 15. In five of his seven appearances for the Brewers, he's pitched a full inning without allowing a hit. He's allowed just two runs over eight innings and he's struck out 13 batters. As Macha recently told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "He certainly has the stuff, there's no doubt about that."

Meanwhile, Hoffman has been on the watch list:

"Hoffman had a nice inning [on Sunday]," Macha said, "and it looked like his command was pretty good today. That was a positive."

The 42-year-old Hoffman pitched in a non-save situation for the third straight game and recorded his third straight scoreless outing.

"He pitched one game in the Minnesota series and one game in the Houston series," Macha said. "I closely scrutinized both those outings. The one in Minnesota he was putting the ball right on the corners; that's how he pitched last year.

"The one against Houston (on Wednesday), pretty much every ball was right down the middle. It would be nice to have him back doing what he did last year."

For now, we believe that Axford has the ninth for Milwaukee — not Hoffman, not Carlos Villanueva(notes), and certainly not Hawkins. He occupies cell B25 on America's favorite closer spreadsheet. And yes, that cell is cursed…
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Obligatory Brad Lidge(notes) update: He's off the DL again, and reportedly feeling great. Despite the fact that Jose Contreras(notes) has been absolutely dominant in relief, Phils manager Charlie Manuel sounds eager to give the ninth inning back to Lidge. This from the Inquirer:

"We'll work him in," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said of Lidge. "I'm not going to say how long it's going to be. It probably won't be very long."

You'll want to keep Contreras rostered, even after Manuel follows through on his threat.

Obligatory Huston Street(notes) update: He's facing live hitters and should soon be ready for a re-do on his minor league rehab stint. You'll recall that Street suffered a minor groin-tweaking in mid-May while rehabbing at Double-A Tulsa.
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Obligatory Bobby Jenks(notes) update: Jenks is dealing with a calf strain, but he's expected to be available on Tuesday. He clearly doesn't have a firm grip on the ninth inning role in Chicago, but I'm doing my small part to preserve his real-life trade value by listing him as a closer above. Here's Ozzie:

"As long as he's here, I'm going to pitch him and I don't see this team a better team with him not out there," Guillen said. "We will, if we have to, move him out of the closer's role, but we're a better team when he's closing."

Matt Thornton(notes) is the best bet for the Sox right now in a no-margin-for-error save situation. But Sergio Santos(notes) is a future closer, and no one should be surprised if he finishes the year with a few August and September saves.

Obligatory Chad Qualls(notes) update: Yup, still bad. Still blowing saves. Still without answers:

"I guess everyone's having a good approach against me right now," Qualls said. "I don't know. I feel like I'm making good pitches. I really just can't explain it right now. It's one of those things. It's hard to just keep coming to the field, keep grinding, and doing your work and going out there and pitching but that's what you have to do."

Aaron Heilman(notes) figures to be next in line for saves, which tells you everything you need to know about the quality of Arizona's bullpen.

David Aardsma(notes) has had a rough May for the Mariners (6.75 ERA, 1.65 WHIP), though he's still managed to convert three save opportunities. But when a living legend like Howie Kendrick(notes) takes you deep, you have to simply tip your cap. Aardsma's velocity is as good as ever; I'm not raising the threat level just yet.


Photos via AP Images