Reliever John Axford is rejoining the Toronto Blue Jays and headed to spring training, after signing a minor league contract.
Valentine’s Day can be a time to bring people together for the first time, or in other cases, reunite with your true love. One example of the latter, is John Axford and his desire to rejoin the Toronto Blue Jays.
As per the latest news, Axford’s wish has now come true. As reported by Sportsnet‘s Shi Davidi, he is en route to spring training with his hometown team.
We previously shared our opinion that bringing the Simcoe, Ontario native back made sense for a team undergoing a major rebuild. As per Davidi, he has signed a minor league deal that will pay him $1.65 million if he makes the ballclub.
Understandably, some people will point towards Axford’s combined ERA of 5.59 over the course of the two previous seasons as a cause for concern. However, unlike his spells with the Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Dodgers during this time frame, he was a more effective pitcher in Toronto.
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The 2011 National League saves leader was 4-1 in 45 appearances for the Blue Jays, which included the first start of his Major League career. He registered a 4.41 ERA over the course of 51.0 innings, while striking out 50 batters.
As per Bill Shaikan of the Los Angeles Times, Axford was particularly effective against left-handed batters in Toronto, as evidenced by a .147 average. He also had an effective groundball rate of 54.6 percent.
After being traded to the Dodgers last July, the righty only appeared in five games before sustaining a fractured fibula after being hit in the leg. He is now recovered, however, with him recently telling Sportsnet‘s Ben Nicholson-Smith that he is feeling very strong physically.
As per Brooks Baseball, Axford most relies of his sinker, which averaged a sizzling 96 mph last season. Interestingly though, it is his 93 mph cutter which is particularly dominant, generating an extremely high number of swings and misses compared to other pitchers.
The 35-year-old previously said he hopes to act as a mentor for the younger pitchers on the staff. Given his 10 years in the Majors, his experience should prove invaluable in the bullpen, especially as the Blue Jays attempt to stay competitive during their rebuild.
Axford is a low risk/high reward proposition, especially on a minor league deal. And he now has one more reason to celebrate Feb. 14, as he will get to remain closer to his family and other loved ones.
Are you on board with Axford rejoining the Toronto Blue Jays? What kind of impact do you predict he will have on the bullpen? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.