John Axford has made it perfectly clear he wants to play for the Blue Jays in 2019. And after the forgettable season Toronto endured last year, that’s saying a lot.
Regardless of whether they win or lose, Axford wants to be a part of this ball club. A refreshing perspective when so many other veteran players had given up on the Blue Jays after realizing they were in rebuild mode.
Not many people probably expected Axford to even make the Blue Jays last season. Especially after the 2017 he had…posting a 6.43 ERA over 21 innings of work with Oakland before being released in July. Axford however came into Blue Jays camp both healthy and strong, and it certainly showed with the increased velocity on his fastball (96.3 MPH compared to 95.5 in 2017). After surrendering just one run over eight innings and striking out 11 last spring, it was a no-brainer to include Axford in Toronto’s bullpen.
Axford could have pitched even better than the 4.41 ERA he registered with Toronto had they not called upon their bullpen as often (and as early) as they did on account of the dismal performance of their starting rotation. By May 13, Axford had already pitched in 18 games and yet had a minuscule 1.31 ERA. His ERA would steadily climb after that, but had he and Toronto’s other relievers not been overused, it would have increased their chances of extending their solid early season play deeper into the season.
As per an article yesterday by Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet, Axford has said “I want to be in Toronto. That’s where I want to be.”
No harm can come from offering Axford a minor-league contract much like Toronto did last February. If he proves yet again during Spring Training that he can be a quality reliever, then the Blue Jays have yet another power arm, and the bullpen adds a true veteran presence. If he’s used properly this time around, Axford would not only provide solid innings of relief, but more importantly act as a mentor for the droves of young pitchers likely to be coming through Toronto’s bullpen in 2019.