Axford finding intensity level just in time

Axford finding intensity level just in time

PHOENIX -- After a shaky start to Spring Training, Brewers closer John Axford appears back on track as he's set to begin his first full season as a Major League closer.

Axford worked around an error for his first Spring Training save in Friday's win over the Indians, then came back Saturday and worked around a leadoff double for a scoreless ninth inning in the Brewers' 2-1, 10-inning win over the Mariners. It marked his first back-to-back outings this spring.

Axford is expected to make one last appearance Monday or Tuesday before the start of the regular season.

"The intensity level is there, and I can feel it on the mound," Axford said. "Before, physically I felt great, and mentally I felt great. It was just the intensity level I was at last year, I just couldn't bring it back. Today, it felt great to be in that moment."

Axford grew used to high-intensity situations last season, when he converted 24 of 27 saves as Trevor Hoffman's fill-in, including nine saves of more than three outs. Only the Giants' Brian Wilson had more multi-inning saves.

But this spring started slowly for Axford, who struggled particularly with command. He's recovered since a March 15 outing against the Indians in which he didn't retire any of the five hitters he faced, and has now logged four consecutive scoreless Cactus League innings.

Axford has calmed manager Ron Roenicke's concern, but insists he was never concerned himself.

"I was never worried about it before, because I knew physically I felt great, and mentally I wasn't over-thinking," Axford said. "I wasn't panicking, thinking I had to work on something. I knew it would come eventually."

All that's left to settle this spring is his entry music. Axford has been letting Facebook friends vote for the song accompanying his trot from the bullpen, and it's down to a final four. He said voting would continue at www.Facebook.com/JohnAxford at least through Tuesday, when the Brewers break camp.