Closer Axford, Indians reach terms on contract
By Tom Withers
AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND — After considering some in-house options, the Indians may have found their new closer on the outside.
Free agent John Axford, who had 46 saves for Milwaukee in 2011 but has struggled the past two seasons, has agreed to terms on a contract with the Indians, pending a physical. Axford is expected to undergo a medical exam early this week.
If there are no issues, Axford will close for the Indians in 2014, replacing Chris Perez, who was released on Oct. 31.
Cleveland initially considered moving either reliever Bryan Shaw or Cody Allen into the closer's spot, but at last week's winter meetings manager Terry Francona said he preferred to keep the two reliable right-handers in their setup roles.
The 30-year-old Axford lost his closer's job last year with the Brewers and was traded to St. Louis in August. He blew six save chances in 62 games last season with the Brewers before they dealt him to the Cardinals, who used him in a late-inning role.
Axford had a 1.74 ERA in 13 games for St. Louis.
The 6-foot-5 right-hander had his best season in 2011, when he went 2-2 with a 1.95 ERA and 46 saves in 74 appearances. Axford had 106 saves in five seasons with the Brewers. He has a 1.42 ERA in 12 postseason appearances.
In addition to Axford, the Indians showed interest in free agents Joaquin Benoit, Grant Balfour and Fernando Rodney.
Cleveland's bullpen has been in flux this offseason. The club released Perez, a two-time All-Star, following a turbulent 2013 season. Cleveland lost valuable right-hander Joe Smith, who signed a three-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels.