John Axford has come a long way in just a few months.
The Ancaster, Ont., resident began this baseball season losing his job as closer with the Milwaukee Brewers to a fellow Canadian. Axford's going to end the season with the St. Louis Cardinals pitching in the World Series.
Born in Simcoe, Ont., Axford is affectionately known as the Ax Man. That's probably got something to do with a blazing fastball that Brewer fans got to know late in the 2010 season when he replaced future Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman as the Brewers closer. In 2011 he converted 46 saves, including a franchise record 43 in a row, as the Brewers won their first division title since 1982.
After a rough start to the 2013 season Axford had been replaced as closer by Calgary's Jim Henderson. And by August he was out of town, traded to the Cardinals.
The trade worked out well for Axford and the Cardinals. Wednesday night, Axford could be making his World Series debut against the Boston Red Sox.
"It does not seem like the same season for me," Axford told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "So much has happened. The season itself is so long with spring training and everything. We had the World Baseball Classic. It just doesn't seem the same to me."
"I've been here for two months now and have gotten to know these guys real well and be accepted into the Cardinal family," said Axford.
"It took more time on my side, just becoming accustomed to the different personalities and getting used to the guys. But I felt accepted right away. That was great."
He's off to a good start in St. Louis. In 13 appearances, he went 1-0 with a 1.74 earned-run average. He struck out 11 batters in 10 1/3 innings pitched. He's given up one run, a home run, in 3 1/3 innings in the 2013 playoffs so far.
The Brewers signed the six-foot-five, 195-pound Axford as a free agent in March 2008 and assigned him to Brevard County of the Florida State League, where he sported a 4.55 ERA in 26 games, including 14 starts.
Milwaukee made Axford a full-time reliever in 2009 and it paid off as he fashioned a 1.63 ERA in 19 appearances and fanned 43 batters in 27 2/3 innings before earning promotions to AA Huntsville and AAA Nashville later that season.
Boasting a 97 mile-per-hour fastball, Axford collected eight victories and converted 24 of 27 save chances in 50 games with the Brewers in 2010. He also had a 2.48 ERA, struck out 76 batters in 58 innings pitched and held opposing batters to a .201 average.