Axford, Hoffman will share save chances

Axford, Hoffman will share save chances

MILWAUKEE -- One of the lessons Brewers manager Ken Macha learned along the road to 500 career wins was to never paint yourself into a corner. So it came as little surprise when he remained vague Sunday morning on his plan to get Trevor Hoffman to 600 saves.

Hoffman was a surprise pick to close out the Brewers' 5-2 win on Saturday night, his first save opportunity since May 18. Rookie John Axford has been excellent in Hoffman's place, converting 16 of 17 save chances, and he will continue to close games. But so will Hoffman, Major League Baseball's all-time saves leader who needs three more for 600 in his career.

"The thing with Hoffman is he's earned his way back to saving games," Macha said. "If you're going to stay with the premise that the players write the lineup and things like that, he's put his name back in there.

"That's not to eliminate Axford from doing things, too, because he's done nothing to write his name out."

So Macha will orchestrate a timeshare of sorts going forward. He wouldn't spell out the plan, but here's a guess: The Brewers could use Axford for multiple-inning save opportunities and to protect one- or two-run leads. Hoffman could pitch when the Brewers have multiple-run leads -- with Axford available in relief if Hoffman falters -- or on days when Axford needs a break.

Macha said he has not ruled out using Axford for the seventh and eighth innings as a bridge to Hoffman in the ninth. But other bullpen arms would probably have to falter for that scenario to unfold.

The plan was devised after a series of discussions between Macha and Hoffman in recent days. Entering Sunday, Hoffman owned a 1.42 ERA over his past 19 appearances, including nine consecutive scoreless outings.

"It's about doing what's best for the team," Hoffman said. "Macha's biggest concern is how to get to the end of the ballgame with a win, and it's nice that a personal situation had a chance to take place. But his job as a manager is to win ballgames. In mid-May, he was looking for solutions. Pitching well helps, and I have to give him confidence to call my number out there and put me in the ballgame."