Cleveland Indians take change on reliever John Axford

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Reliever John Axford, who started last season with Milwaukee and was traded to St. Louis in August, will take over the closer duties for Cleveland next season.  FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Reliever John Axford, who started last season with Milwaukee and was traded to St. Louis in August, will take over the closer duties for Cleveland next season.

John Axford had other choices where he could pitch next season. The Indians closed the deal.

Axford, who had 46 saves for Milwaukee in 2011 but lost his closer’s job last season and was traded to St. Louis, finalized a $4.5 million, one-year contract on Thursday and will close for Cleveland in 2014.

The 30-year-old Axford had other teams interested in signing him, but he decided to join the Indians because of their turnaround in 2013, a strong clubhouse and manager Terry Francona.

Axford replaces two-time All-Star closer Chris Perez, who was released in October after Cleveland made its first playoff appearance since 2007.

Axford agreed to the contract with Cleveland earlier this week, and completed the deal after taking a physical on Wednesday. The right-hander can earn another $1.75 million in performance bonuses based on games finished: $250,000 for 38 and $300,000 apiece for 43, 48, 53, 58 and 63.

The Indians weren’t scared off despite Axford’s struggles last season, when he started horribly and was demoted by the Brewers before eventually being traded to St. Louis in August.

“We thought he was the right guy to take a chance on,” Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said. “We feel like we added an experienced, power arm to the back of our bullpen.”

Axford attributed some of his early problems last season to pitching in the World Baseball Classic. He was throwing hard from the get-go and went through a “dead arm” period when his velocity dropped following the WBC. But after making some adjustments, Axford settled in and posted a 2.92 ERA in his final 71 appearances with the Brewers and Cardinals.

Axford has a 22-19 career record with a 3.29 ERA and 106 saves in 281 relief appearances.

ANGELS: Raul Ibanez is close to finalizing a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels, according to ESPN.com.

Multiple reports said the deal is for a $2.75 million base salary and includes incentives that could increase the payout to $5 million. It is expected to be complete when Ibanez passes a physical exam.

Ibanez, 41, helps fill a void in the lineup that was created when the Angels sent Mark Trumbo to the Arizona Diamondbacks as part of a three-way trade at the winter meetings.

ATHLETICS: Acquired outfielder Corey Brown from the Washington Nationals for cash.

Brown has played in 36 major league games in parts of three seasons, batting .175 with two homers and four RBI.

After recently trading Seth Smith to San Diego, the addition of Brown provides further depth to an outfield


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