A 27-year-old baseball vagabond without a dominant pitch rarely has a chance to stay on a major league roster. Dylan Axelrod is trying to beat those odds as he replaces rehabbing starter John Danks in the White Sox rotation.
Axelrod has had a few (11) spot starts for the team over the past three seasons when Sox pitchers were unable to take their turns. "He is what you see,” manager Robin Ventura said. "It doesn’t seem to matter what the situation, he is under control and very confident. You can’t tell what he is thinking by what is going on out there. He is very composed for a young pitcher and he knows what he is doing."
Matching up against Seattle Mariners superstar Felix Hernandez, one of the most complete pitchers in baseball, didn’t seem to bother the Santa Barbara, Calif., native Saturday.
"I thought we would get at least one run," Axelrod said. "Obviously it is a tough matchup coming in. My goal was to keep us in the game and see what our offense could do.”
The White Sox won 4-3.
Just making an Opening Day major league roster for the first time was exciting for Axelrod, who has never had a complete season in the major leagues. He ended up with a no-decision Saturday, going 5 2/3 innings, and allowing three hits and an unearned run on 97 pitches in his first start of the season.
"With experience and success, it gets easier to be out there,” he said. “After a while you feel like you are in control and belong."
The White Sox pitcher used a 25 mph wind that was swirling around the park to his advantage.
"I was able to in certain counts to challenge guys and the ball hung up there in center field. I did pay attention to that a little bit," he said.
Axelrod was originally signed by the San Diego Padres in 2007, then released and was signed by the White Sox out of the independent league in 2009. After beating the bushes for a number of years, he might have found a niche. It appears the White Sox will continue to use Axelrod as a starter until Danks is able to regain his arm strength.
The White Sox scored two runs on a home run by Alex Rios in the sixth inning, making a winner out of Donald Veal, who relieved Axelrod in the top half of the inning.
"Axelrod was doing what he wanted to do on the mound today,” Rios said. “He was controlling his pitches very well and hitting his spots. He doesn’t try to throw a fastball by you. He changes speeds. He is not a power pitcher so he relies on changing speeds. He has pretty good stuff."