Journeyman closer John Axford warmed the hearts of baseball fans everywhere on Monday night when he appeared in his first big league game in three years. The 38-year-old Canadian faced five Pirates batters, recording one out and allowing two hits and a walk to go with a hit batsmen. Two of his runners would ultimately score, but Axford’s Brewers hung on to win 6-2. However, despite his improbable return to Major League Baseball, it wasn’t all roses for Axford, as significant structural damage to his throwing elbow has torpedoed any chances of appearing in a second game this season.
An 11-year big league veteran, John Axford beat the odds as a 42nd-round draft pick who made it to the major leagues. Axford built upon a solid seven-game debut in 2009, and hurled 58.0 innings of 2.48 ERA ball in 2010, locking down the Brewers closing job along the way. He had his best season the following year, twirling 73.2 masterful innings of 1.95 ERA work, with 86 strikeouts and a National League-leading 46 saves. He would go on to bounce around seven more franchises over the next seven seasons, never again capturing his lights-out form, but still providing quality work in the later innings. 2018 looked to be the end of the line for John Axford, as stress fractures and bone spurs in his pitching elbow scuttled his 2019 campaign.
Axford would go on to become a broadcaster for the Toronto Blue Jays prior to the 2021 season, but after performing well with the Canadian National Team in Olympic qualifying play, he was offered a minor league contract by the very same Blue Jays. In desperate need of some bullpen help, The Milwaukee Brewers acquired him and purchased his contract on Monday. Unfortunately, the most recent elbow injury he suffered has ended his season, and it remains to be seen if Axford will attempt yet another comeback. If this proves to be the right time for John Axford to hang up his spikes, he will be able to do so with a great deal of pride. The 6’5” right-hander currently has 525.2 career innings pitched under his belt of 3.90 ERA ball, with 589 strikeouts and 144 saves, second only all-time to the great Eric Gagne among Canadians. Whether or not another comeback story is in the works, one thing is for sure, John Axford is one of the greatest Canadians to ever play the game, and baseball is better off because of him.