The Brewers activated closer Josh Hader from the Covid-19-related injured list Thursday, clearing roster space by optioning lefty Hoby Milner to Triple-A Nashville and transferring righty John Axford to the 60-day injured list, per a club announcement.
Hader, 27, is in the midst of yet another dominant season on the mound, having pitched to a career-low 1.83 ERA with a 45 percent strikeout rate that leads all qualified relief pitchers and a 9.4 percent walk that’s down more than three percent from his shaky levels in 2020. Devin Williams has been getting save chances in Hader’s absence, but Hader figures to again serve as manager Craig Counsell’s go-to option in such situations now.
The news on Axford was to be expected. The Brewers already announced earlier this month that the 38-year-old right-hander sustained a season-ending elbow injury during his first big league appearance since 2018. Unfortunately, Axford indeed sustained an injury to his ulnar collateral ligament, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported this morning, and he’s weighing what the injury means for his career at this point. President of baseball operations David Stearns indicated that Axford is likely looking at a “reconstruction” surgery (i.e. Tommy John).
“It’s really unfortunate,” said Stearns. “We feel awful for John. I think he was very excited to come to this team. He was excited to pitch in a pennant race, hopefully pitch in the playoffs again. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out.”
Given the timing of the injury, a Tommy John procedure would very likely wipe out all of Axford’s 2022 season as well. If he did attempt a comeback, he’d be doing so in 2023 for what would be his age-40 season.