We've wasted a lot of ink, blood and bandwidth on the Milwaukee bullpen this year, and the ending isn't anywhere in sight.
Meet the new Brewers closer, same as the old Brewers closer. John Axford apparently has his job back, endorsed by skipper Ron Roenicke.
Axford hasn't been anything special since he lost full control of the gig: in his last 15 appearances, he's posted a 4.73 ERA. But it's not like the other relievers in-house have been running away from him. The club accepts that Axford back in the big chair is the ideal resolution, should he be capable of settling back into the job.
Everything flowed Axford's way in Tuesday's 5-2 victory over the Cubs. The Brewers had a five-run lead entering the ninth, but Manny Parra created a mess (two hits, one walk) and Jim Henderson only retired one of the two men he faced. Enter Axman for the cheesy one-out handshake: Welington Castillo's ground out ended the game.
After the game, Roenicke tweaked the closing grid yet again.
"This is a guy we would obviously like to be in that closer role," Roenicke said of Axford. "And the reason we took him out of it is to try and do what's best for him to get back into that role. I think when he was out of it, I think he pitched well enough to allow us the confidence that we think we can put him back in there now.
"I'm not saying I'm going to [use Axford] every time," Roenicke continued. "But I think when everything matches up well, I think he'll be in there. I'm sure Henderson will have his chances, and hopefully we have a lot of chances here as the season goes on."
So there you go. The Axman's hair hasn't grown back yet, but he's returned to familiar ground. I'm hoping he takes this opportunity and runs with it, if only so we can stop chasing our tail with this story. Enough is enough. Fall River scribes didn't write this much about Lizzie Borden.
Discuss your Milwaukee closing vibes in the comments. I'll be back shortly with more notes; after working on hockey projections all night, I feel like I went 15 rounds with Dave Schultz.
The committee approach appears alive and well in the Bullpen of Bochy. Santiago Casilla has thrown the ball better in August, though it's all batted-ball fortune (no strikeouts). Sergio Romo preceded Lopez in each of the last two wins, but he wasn't able to slam the door (or perhaps he wasn't going to be allowed that privilege). Jeremy Affeldt has fallen into obscurity, pitching just twice over the last 14 days. He allowed two runs in a brief stint at San Diego on Saturday.
See any lead that makes sense here? I don't. Lopez is a one-trick pony all the way: lefties hit .191 against him, righties smack .436 against him. Check, please. Romo is dominant against righties and good against lefties, but durability is a constant concern there. Affeldt has a solid set of credentials but he can't top Lopez for lefties or Romo for righties, so it can be tricky to slot him into the ninth sometimes. And then there's his recent disappearing act, which is puzzling. Several dominoes would have to fall before Casilla shifted back into the ninth; at least, that's my gut feeling. Bruce Bochy isn't telling me any military secrets.
• I've always had a soft spot in my heart for San Diego's Will Venable. Maybe it's the fact that he went to Princeton, or maybe it's the category juice (eight homers, 18 steals in 24 attempts). He's on a nifty 9-for-13 run the last three days, along with two doubles, a homer and a steal.
Venable isn't much against lefties, but a .264/.332/.447 slash against righties is playable, especially with the power and speed mixed in. He's also posting an .836 OPS on the road; these Padres love to let their hair down when they're away from Petco Park. If you're in a deeper league and need an outfield option, Venable is good to go in 97 percent of Yahoo! leagues. San Diego is at Arizona on the weekend, though unfortunately they face a couple of southpaws (Corbin, Saunders).
• Thanks for the memories, Bartolo Colon. The veteran righty was slapped with a 50-game suspension on Wednesday, the result of a failed PED test. Colon apparently tested positive for synthetic testosterone. He was surprisingly useful this year, collecting 10 wins along with a 3.43 ERA and 1.21 WHIP.
The Colon news pushes Daniel Straily back into our fantasy lives, but it won't happen immediately. Straily has to spend 10 days in the minors before the A's can recall him; he could come back sooner in an injury-replacement situation, but the Colon news doesn't qualify.
Oakland has another intriguing fantasy option on the scene, lefty Brett Anderson. His return to the majors Tuesday was a smash, seven dominant innings against the Twins (4 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 6 K). Remember all the sonnets we sang about his potential two years ago? Anderson is worth looking into next week at Cleveland; after that, he's in line for a home start against Boston. Strikeout potential and a big park, that works for me.
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