4/1/2014 11:15 P.M. ET
Axford finds relief in first save since 2012
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
OAKLAND -- John Axford was not going to worry too much about the details. In his first appearance with the Indians, the closer nailed down a save and sealed a win. Whatever else appeared on his pitching line did not matter.
"It definitely could've gone better," Axford said with a smirk. "But, it still worked out, right? No runs and we ended up with the win. So, it was perfect."
Axford's ninth-inning showing, which put the finishing touch on Cleveland's 2-0 victory on Opening Day, also served as a kind of milestone for the closer. It represented Axford's first save in the Major Leagues since Oct. 2, 2012, when he was with the Brewers. Last year, the right-hander went 0-for-7 in save opportunities.
Axford kept the ball from the final out as a memento.
The outing also marked the first time in Axford's big league career that he did not allow a run in his first appearance of a season. He issued two walks to go along with two strikeouts in the ninth inning, but Axford allowed no runs. In the previous five years, he posted a combined 18.69 ERA (nine runs in 4 1/3 innings) in his first games of the season.
"It was better than any year I've ever had," Axford said. "I've never started the season without an ERA before. I've gone anywhere from a 9.00 to a 54.00. Luckily, it turned out much better this time."
The Indians can only hope that it is the start of a solid season for Axford, who signed a one-year deal worth $4.5 million with the club over the winter to serve as its new stopper. Axford replaced former closer Chris Perez, who brought plenty of drama to the ninth inning over the past few years.
Axford said he felt like there were only a few kinks to get ironed out from Monday's outing.
"My focus was pretty good out there," Axford said. "I felt pretty calm and collected out there in the 'pen the whole time, too. Whatever nerves could've or shoul've been there, they weren't there at all. It was just a matter of focusing on a couple extra pitches there. There were a couple pitches that were close, borderline.
"Just bring them up a little bit or move them in a little bit more toward the plate and they're strikes. There were some quality pitches that guys didn't swing at as well. If those turn around, obviously, we'll have some less pitches and two less walks maybe. But I felt good. I felt great."
Francona displeased with reviewed call in opener
OAKLAND -- Indians manager Terry Francona believes it is going to take time for both players and umpires to adjust to Major League Baseball's new rules covering home-plate collisions. Francona pointed to a play on Monday night as an example.
In the sixth inning of the Indians' 2-0 win over the A's, Michael Brantley slid into the legs of Oakland catcher John Jaso, who appeared to block home plate prior to receiving a relay throw from pitcher Sonny Gray. Brantley was called out and the ruling was confirmed after home-plate umpire Mike Winters had the play reviewed.
After looking at the replay himself, Francona did not feel Brantley had a clear path to the plate, which catchers need to provide under the new rules. Catchers are not permitted to block the plate prior to having possession of the baseball.
"Their catcher moved up the line," Francona said. "That takes away any angle that Brantley had."
Winters explained his take to a pool reporter after Monday's game.
"With the new rule," Winters said, "I just wanted to confirm what I saw on the field that the catcher did not block the plate unnecessarily. ... He was in fair territory. He gave the runner plenty of plate to go to, and so I just wanted to be sure."
Francona did not agree.
"I don't think that's correct," Francona said.
After the new guidelines for plays at the plate were announced in Spring Training, Francona instructed his position players to always slide into the plate. The manager felt that would eliminate his players being called out for unnecessarily colliding into a catcher.
"They're trying to institute a rule to protect the catchers," Francona said. "We all understand that. Getting there is not always the easiest. Even when you look at it four, five, six times, then you try to put yourself in the catcher's shoes, the runner's shoes. The game is going fast. I'm sure you're going to see some squabbling or back-and-forth until it's completely figured out.
"We told them to always slide. That's what we've instructed. We were told that you're never in peril of being called out, thrown out, or suspended, if you slide. So, that's kind of the way we're going about it. We were also told that if they block the plate before they have the ball, that they are going to overturn calls. So, it's still a little gray."
Giambi's rehab altered by rainy weather
OAKLAND -- The rainy conditions here this week have forced veteran Jason Giambi to alter his rehab schedule.
The original plan was to have Giambi (on the 15-day disabled list with a fractured rib in his right side) taking normal batting practice on Monday. Giambi has been forced to stay indoors over the past couple days, and he said Tuesday that he will meet with manager Terry Francona when the team returns to Cleveland to discuss the plan going forward.
Francona said Giambi might require a brief Minor League rehab assignment.
"I want to sit and talk to 'G,'" Francona said. "I don't think he's going to be a big proponent of [a rehab assignment]. Saying that, when a guy's been down for a month -- I think he had [six plate appearances in Spring Training] -- we'll see. If anything, it's certainly not going to be extended. We'll see. We'll talk."
The 43-year-old Giambi was struck in the side by a pitch from Cubs starter Edwin Jackson on March 7, effectively ending the designated hitter's Spring Training. Giambi said he needs to run the bases, simulate a pinch-hitting situation and do other baseball activities before he can rejoin Cleveland's active roster.
"I'll come back when I can stand here and say that I know I can help the team," Giambi said on Tuesday. "I still have some things I need to do first. There's only so much you can do in the cage. It'll be good to get back home. We'll sit down and talk things over in Cleveland."
Quote to note
"He's good. We think he's pretty good, but our job is to beat him now. We used to love it when he'd win. Now, we hope he loses."
-- Francona, on A's lefty Scott Kazmir, who pitched for Cleveland last season and will face the Tribe on Wednesday.
• Indians center fielder Michael Bourn, who is eligible to be activated from the 15-day disabled list on Saturday, is scheduled to test his left hamstring in a Minor League rehab assignment with Triple-A Columbus on Thursday and Friday.
• Francona used lefty-hitting Nyjer Morgan as the leadoff man against A's right-hander Sonny Gray for Monday's game. Against Kazmir, Francona plans on having switch-hitter Asdrubal Cabrera atop the order. The manager is mixing and matching until Bourn returns from the DL.
• Francona said that catcher Yan Gomes "got hit pretty good" on the left elbow by a pitch from A's closer Jim Johnson in the ninth inning on Monday. Gomes was still in the lineup on Tuesday (before the game was postponed) and is expected to be on the field Wednesday.
• Indians fifth starter Carlos Carrasco had his final tuneup outing on Saturday, allowing two runs on five hits with four strikeouts and no walks in a Double-A game in Arizona. Francona said the reports on the outing were good, especially considering the game was an early morning contest.