MILWAUKEE -- Brewers general manager Doug Melvin would not guarantee that John Axford will be back in the closer role for 2013, but expressed confidence that Axford will serve a prominent role in the bullpen.
"It's too early to say," Melvin said. "We believe in John. I believe in John Axford, I believe in his stuff, I believe in his character, his poise."
And the Brewers, Melvin argued, are not the only team with ninth-inning issues.
"I think there's 16 teams that they don't have the same closer they had a the start of the year," he said. "That position, there's so much pressure on that closer role. You look at other teams. People are yelling for a change after four or five [blown saves]."
Axford is 18-for-26 in save opportunities after going 46-for-48 last year. The bullpen was expected to be a strength, but has proven its biggest liability, with Axford, Francisco Rodriguez, Jim Henderson and Kameron Loe all getting ninth-inning save opportunities.
Axford is arbitration-eligible in the coming winter as a Super 2 player. That means the Brewers control his rights for four more years.
Melvin spoke at length Friday about the pressures put onto ninth inning specialists in today's game, and refused to blame the bullpen entirely for the team's troubles.
"It's a team game," Melvin said. "You don't knock in runs and you lose 1-0, 2-1, 3-2. There's a lot of emphasis put on that ninth inning. It's tough. There's no complete games anymore. Every night, you got have bullpen guys that are pitching the eighth and ninth innings.
"Like I told you, the expectations of a closer is 40-some saves. Everybody wants 40 saves out of a closer. Goose Gossage, who's in the Hall of Fame, he had two years of over 30. Two of over 30! The expectation of a closer today is much greater."