MILWAUKEE -- Brewers general manager Doug Melvin expressed a high degree of confidence in erstwhile closer John Axford on Wednesday, a day after the team removed Axford from the ninth-inning role. Axford did his job in the finale against the Cardinals, hurling 1 1/3 scoreless innings and allowing just one hit to pick up the victory in Milwaukee's 4-3 win.
The Brewers replaced Axford with Francisco Rodriguez, who saved both games in the series, both in harrowing ninth innings. After going 46-for-48 in save opportunities in his remarkable 2011 season, Axford is 16-for-22 this year.
"The reason you turn it over is because of the impatience of people -- the media, the fans, everybody else," Melvin said. "He's still got the best arm on the club." The Brewers have turned it over a lot in recent years. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel ran a terrific chart on Wednesday illustrating how since the end of Bob Wickman's tenure in 2000, no Brewers closer has held the job for two entire seasons, though Axford did hold the job for more than two calendar years, taking over in May 2010 before losing the job Tuesday. Since 2000, Wickman, Curtis Leskanic, Mike DeJean, Dan Kolb, Derrick Turnbow, Francisco Cordero, Eric Gagne, Salomon Torres, Trevor Hoffman, Axford and Rodriguez have all gotten opportunities to close. Illustrating the volatility of the job, Kolb, Turnbow, Cordero and Hoffman all represented the Brewers in the All-Star Game. Axford might have joined that list had the Brewers not gotten off to such a slow start in 2012. "You can say the same thing for a team's No. 3 starter -- how many teams have the same No. 3 starter back-to-back years?" Melvin argued. "You can say the same for a lot of things. It's just that the closer is looked at through the microscope." He added: "The idea is to get [Axford] straightened out pretty quick. ... We'll just let it play itself out. We still have confidence in his arm strength."