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Axford: Relievers to blame for coach's dismissal

Axford: Relievers to blame for coach's dismissal

Axford: Relievers to blame for coach's dismissal
MILWAUKEE -- John Axford can't help but feel at least partly responsible for Brewers bullpen coach Stan Kyles losing his job on Monday.

Kyles' dismissal came on the heels of Axford's seventh blown save in what has been a disastrous season for the Milwaukee bullpen. As a whole, the group has blown 20 saves and recorded 26 losses entering Monday; both numbers rank last in the Major Leagues. The bullpen's 4.80 ERA (28th) and .274 opponent batting average (29th) also are among the worst in baseball.

"Once I found out, obviously I take some of the blame for it," Axford said. "It hurts me thinking about it because with the season that we're having down there, something like that doesn't happen. We had an outstanding season last year as a bullpen. Those numbers just weren't reached this year. Obviously the people to blame are the people that are going out there, and nobody feels worse other than us, the guys that are stepping on the mound."

This season was Kyles' 11th with the Brewers and his fourth as the bullpen coach. Milwaukee's Minor League pitching coordinator Lee Tunnell will take over the position and join the team on Tuesday.

Axford joined the Milwaukee 'pen in 2009, the same year Lyles took the position he was released from Monday. In those years, Axford said Kyles helped him both mentally and physically, especially through the struggles that have come along with this season. However, he understood that a change was needed.

"That's the way the game is, and that's the way businesses are, too," Axford said. "Someone that's got control of the group is I guess eventually going to be the one that has to pay. Even though Stan's not the one out there throwing the pitches, he's the one that's going to get the finger pointed at other than us."

The team has made other changes to the bullpen, adding Jim Henderson last week and calling up Mike McClendon on the same day Lyles was let go.

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke conceded that a side effect of such dismissals is providing a wake-up call to players.

"If I'm an owner, if I'm a GM, I don't think I can just sit and watch what's going on," Roenicke said, "Unfortunately, it always seems that when the players aren't performing that the coaches are the ones that are let go.

"But I have trouble watching it, and I'm sure you guys have trouble watching it, too. We need to do something. Stan is not at fault for these guys doing this, but he's responsible for it, [pitching coach] Rick Kranitz is responsible for it, and I'm responsible for it. I feel bad that I haven't been able to get this bullpen turned around. Rick feels bad that he hasn't been able to get it turned around and Stan felt the same way. It's all our responsibilities to turn it around, and we haven't done it."

Roenicke said there could be "another move or two that we'll try." He said club officials had already discussed one player he has never seen in person.

Meanwhile, Roenicke has done away with bullpen roles, saying he would rely on batter-pitcher matchups and other factors to determine which reliever appears in which inning. That means Livan Hernandez could close a game, Roenicke said, or newcomer Jim Henderson.

"I think we all know coming in that this is reality -- this is a performance job, and if we can't get the players to perform and it's our job to do it, then sometimes [changes] happen," Roenicke said.

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