Kazmir Gets Headlines as Indians’ Fifth Starter, And Dylan Axelrod Earns Same Job With White Sox
While disappointments always show up this time of year as major league teams trim their rosters to the 25-man Opening Day limit, Independent Baseball got a double dose of good news this week in learning that two of its recent pitchers have nailed down No. 5 starting roles in rotations.
Scott Kazmir has drawn so much of the attention because of his comeback with Cleveland, which started when he was with the Sugar Land (TX) Skeeters in the Atlantic League last season, but it is no less meaningful that Dylan Axelrod nailed down a starting role with the Chicago White Sox. It could even be argued that Axelrod’s opportunity is more impressive in that he came up without the resume of Kazmir, a former No. 1 draft choice who already has 66 major league victories.
Axelrod’s ascent from being the 927th draft choice in 2007 is ironic in that the right-hander was in Windy City all along—emerging in ’09 from the Frontier League’s Windy City ThunderBolts of Crestwood, IL, mere miles from where he will pitch on the south side of Chicago.
“It’s a great feeling,” Axelrod told MLB.com. “I’ve been working toward this for a long time. It’s been a dream of mine to be a starting pitcher in the major leagues. So I’m getting a great opportunity obviously. I’m going to try to run with it.”
Kazmir, who is under a $1 million contract with another $750,000 possible in incentive bonuses, is scheduled to make his first start the same day as Axelrod, pitching at Tampa Bay. “I’m very proud that this has happened,” the southpaw told The Associated Press. “Knowing where I was a couple years ago and being able to be here now is unbelievable. I guess hard work does pay off.”
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Drew, Nava in Line for Jobs
Among position players, Stephen Drew (Camden, NJ, Atlantic League) will be at shortstop for Boston when his concussion symptoms have gone away although they may not allow him to avoid the disabled list, and indications are Daniel Nava (Chico, CA, Golden League) has once more won a job with the Red Sox. Nava (14-for-44, .318) needed a strong Grapefruit League performance to overcome contenders. He likely will serve as a part-time DH as well as a backup in the outfield.
Great Spring Camps Not Enough for Ford, Pie and Robertson
Losing out on jobs after solid spring training performances have to be especially difficult to swallow, but that is the fate experienced major leaguers Lew Ford, Felix Pie and Nate Robertson, all of whom were in Independent leagues for a time last season, face, at least for now.
Ford’s impressive postseason play and his .405 average, .463 on-base percentage with two homers and six RBI this spring could not save the former Long Island (NY) Ducks (Atlantic League) outfielder from going back to Baltimore’s minor league system, and Pie (Camden, NJ, Atlantic) did not make it with Pittsburgh despite a solid .318 (14-for-44) with six extra-base hits and eight batted in. Robertson’s new sidearm delivery in which he limited hitters to a .135 average (five hits in 11.1 innings, 1.59) were not enough to get the Wichita, KS (American Association) lefty on the Opening Day roster with Texas although the Rangers have given him the flexibility to shop for a job in another organization.
Indy Radio Voice Robert Ford Joins Astros
Chalk up one more Independent Baseball radio voice cracking the major leagues. Two-time Frontier League Broadcaster of the Year Robert Ford (Kalamazoo, MI, ’03-04) has joined the Houston Astros radio team.
By BOB DUTTON The Kansas City Star
(This is an excerpt from the column Bob Wirz writes year round on Independent Baseball. Forty columns are planned during 2013. Fans may subscribe at www.WirzandAssociates.com, enjoy added stories on the blog www.IndyBaseballChatter.com, or comment to RWirz@aol.com. The author has 16 years of major league baseball public relations experience with Kansas City and as spokesman for two Commissioners and lives in Stratford, CT.)