MILWAUKEE -- Once a fixture in the Brewers' clubhouse, John Axford was back in the Miller Park visitors' clubhouse Friday, pitching for his second divisional rival in as many years.
Axford, who spent five and a half years in the Brewers' organization, returned as a Cardinal last year after the Brewers traded the righty to St. Louis. After winning the National League pennant with the Cardinals, he signed with the Indians, who dealt him to Pittsburgh on Aug. 14. On Friday, he returned looking to help the Pirates cut into the Brewers' lead in the National League Central.
"I wasn't expecting to be in the NL Central this year, but obviously crazy things happen in this game. Things change," Axford said. "It's definitely great to be back in the hunt. You have that second Wild Card, it opens things up quite a bit. You never know what can happen. Hopefully, things work out well here this year, too."
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said he was happy to see the reliever, who accumulated 106 saves for the Brewers from 2009-12, including a league-leading 46 for the 2011 NL Central championship team.
"I always follow him. He's a real likable guy and works hard," Roenicke said. "He's very professional. I'm always interested to see how he's doing. He can still pitch. He's got a great arm."
Now on his third team within the division, Axford acknowledged he's gathered some knowledge to help him through the Brewers' lineup.
"When you're a teammate, you tend to not look at it quite as much that way," Axford said. "There's certain guys you definitely do because you wonder how you'd get them out if you faced them, with how good some of those guys are over there. But you get to know them over the years, and hopefully I can use that to my advantage, and I'm sure they're going to do the exact same with me, through watching me for so many years."
He joked of a possible game plan: "Maybe I'll just throw all changeups, since I don't at all."
Caitlin Swieca is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.