PHOENIX -- John Axford was fighting food poisoning last spring, leaving the Milwaukee Brewers uncertain about his future with the team. After a breakthrough season, they no longer have any doubts about the tall Canadian closer and former Canisius College pitcher.
"Command wasn't good, velocity wasn't good, so we weren't sure," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke recalled. "You can't make quick judgments at spring training."
There's no questioning the 6-foot-5 right-hander's command or velocity now.
"He throws 98. He sits upper 90s," catcher Jonathan Lucroy said Wednesday. "He has two-plus off-speed pitches, secondary pitches with his curveball and slider. Coupled with that, he's 6-5, he's nasty and throws strikes.
"With the movement he has and with the ability he has to throw strikes with those pitches, I think he's just devastating," Lucroy added.
Axford had a franchise-record 46 saves last year, converting his last 43 chances to set another team record. He was 2-2 with a 2.26 ERA in 73 2/3 innings in 74 appearances to help the Brewers win the NL Central.
The 29-year-old Axford, signed as a free agent in 2008 after he was released by the New York Yankees, has been sharp early in spring training.
He's set for a live bullpen session today and expects to pitch Sunday in the exhibition opener against San Francisco.
In other baseball news, Major League Baseball, according to sources, is expected to announce today that it is adding two teams to the playoffs for the 2012 season, giving each league a second wild card to create a 10-team October.