The Blue Jays have released reliever John Axford, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet tweets. Additionally, reliever Bud Norris didn’t make the Jays’ roster, per Davidi, but they have given him a $100K retention bonus to stay in the fold.
Axford, whom the Blue Jays signed to a minor league contract in February, had been battling for a season-opening bullpen spot in spring training. But the 35-year-old Axford suffered a stress reaction in his pitching elbow this week, thus taking him out of the mix. It’s possible he’ll return to the Blue Jays in short order, though, as Davidi suggests they may have released Axford simply to rework his contract.
Toronto’s quite familiar with Axford, a native of Canada who spent the first few months of 2018 with the Blue Jays before they sent him to the Dodgers at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Between the two teams last year, Axford tossed 54 2/3 innings and posted an ugly 5.27 ERA with 8.89 K/9 and 3.62 BB/9. Most of the damage came during Axford’s short stint in LA, where he managed just 3 2/3 innings on account of a fractured fibula.
As an Article XX(B) free agent, the Jays had to place Norris on their 25-man roster, pay him $100K to stay on as a minor leaguer or send him back to the open market, where he languished until March 1. Surprisingly, Norris has to settle for a minors deal after performing well last year with the Cardinals, with whom he notched 57 2/3 innings and logged a 3.59 ERA with 10.46 K/9, 3.28 BB/9 and 28 saves in 33 attempts. Norris looked like a good bet to win a roster spot with the Jays after signing with them, but forearm fatigue has slowed him of late. The 34-year-old won’t be in Toronto from the outset of the season, then, though it’s possible he’ll join its bullpen sometime in the coming weeks.