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Pirates notebook: Axford set to provide more relief

Rob Biertempfel
| Friday, Aug. 15, 2014, 6:48 p.m.
John Axford joined the Pirates after posting a 3.92 ERA in 49 appearances with the Indians this season.
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John Axford joined the Pirates after posting a 3.92 ERA in 49 appearances with the Indians this season.

WASHINGTON — A few hours after the Pirates claimed him off waivers Thursday, reliever John Axford tweeted a photo of himself dressed in a pirate costume — the kind worn by Johnny Depp, not Andrew McCutchen.

“I have another one of my wife and I where she's dressed up as a parrot and I'm a pirate,” Axford said. “But I decided not to use it so she wouldn't get angry at me.”

In the visiting team's clubhouse Friday at Nationals Park, Axford was wearing the kind of black-and-gold Pirates garb baseball fans recognize.

The Pirates got Axford in a straight waiver claim from the Cleveland Indians. To clear a spot for him on the active roster, pitcher Stolmy Pimentel went on the 15-day disabled list because of a sprained right ankle.

“John's got great experience, and he's done multiple things in the past few years,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “I think he's going to be a healthy addition for our club.”

Axford collected 106 saves over five seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers. Last year, he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals and faced the Pirates in the NL Division Series.

“I'm pretty familiar with the ballparks, the teams, the players (in the NL Central),” Axford said. “I ready to jump back into it. I'm ready for anything and willing to help wherever I can.”

Axford, 31, had a 3.92 ERA and a 1.47 walks plus hits per innings pitched in 49 appearances this season with the Indians. In his final outing for Cleveland on Aug. 8, Axford walked three batters and served up Carlos Beltran's grand slam.

“That was the worst one I've had all year,” Axford said. “But I've kept my walks down since May, and I've been attacking hitters a lot more.”

Over his first 17 outings this year, Axford had a 1.77 WHIP and averaged 7.98 walks per nine innings. In 32 games since May 9, Axford put up a 1.31 WHIP and averaged 5.28 walks per nine innings.

“I really focused on my mechanics, making sure I knew what to do every pitch,” Axford said. “I just worked on and off the field a little bit more on my mental side.”

Mercer status uncertain

Shortstop Jordy Mercer was scheduled to see a doctor and possibly have an MRI exam Friday for his tight right forearm. The injury happened during Thursday's game against the Detroit Tigers.

“I was hoping I'd wake up (Friday) and see improvement,” Mercer said. “It's still tight. There's no improvement, but it's not any worse, either. Maybe that's a good thing.”

A more detailed diagnosis of Mercer's condition and status might be revealed Saturday.

Thumbs up for Manfred

Hurdle was pleased Rob Manfred was chosen to take over for commissioner Bud Selig.

“The game's been in good hands, and I think it will continue to be in good hands,” Hurdle said. “Rob was a big part of Bud's posse through the globalization of the game and the economic revival of the game.”

Minor matters

Catcher Elias Diaz was promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis. That opened a roster spot at Double-A Altoona for catcher Ramon Cabrera, who was claimed off waivers from the Tigers.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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