The Blue Jays announced that they’ve re-signed right-hander John Axford to a minor league contract. He had been in camp with the Jays for much of Spring Training but was cut loose from that deal when he was diagnosed with a stress reaction in his right elbow. Because he’ll be sidelined for at least a month, Axford and the Jays re-worked the terms of the minor league contract. In doing so, Toronto also avoided paying Axford a $100K retention bonus that would’ve been otherwise required to keep him in the minors while he rehabbed.
It still remains quite possible, if not likely, that the Canadian-born Axford will reemerge as a bullpen option for the Blue Jays at some point once he’s had sufficient time to mend his ailing elbow. Prior to the injury, he was viewed as a strong candidate to break camp with the Jays for what would be the second straight season. Last year, Axford appeared in 45 games for the Blue Jays last season, pitching to a 4.41 ERA with a 50-to-20 K/BB ratio in 51 innings before being traded to the Dodgers prior to the July 31 non-waiver deadline.
Axford’s time with the Dodgers proved forgettable. He was tagged for six runs in his first appearance with the L.A. organization, and while his next four outings were sharp (one run in three innings with four strikeouts and no walks), he didn’t have time for his numbers with the Dodgers to recover before being struck in the leg by a comeback liner that left him with a fractured fibula and sidelined him for more than a month.
The injury to Axford is hardly the only health issue that cropped up in the Blue Jays’ bullpen mix late in Spring Training. Bud Norris was slowed late in camp when he had trouble getting loose prior to one of his outings, while Ryan Tepera will begin the season on the injured list due to inflammation in his right elbow. There’s no clear timeline at present for when Axford will be ready to get back on the mound, and he’ll certainly need a Triple-A tuneup before the organization considers selecting his contract to the Major League roster.