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Axelrod chips away toward new role

If it’s a long reliever the Chicago White Sox need, Dylan Axelrod has already shown this spring that he could be the right man for the job.

The crafty right-hander, who was a non-roster invitee to spring training, fired three scoreless innings in a start against the Cleveland Indians on Friday and has given up just one run in eight innings over three Cactus League outings.

Before fading badly down the stretch last season, Axelrod was able to give the White Sox some solid innings. He made 20 starts, posting a solid 3.95 ERA over the first month in five outings. His ERA went up every month form there, though, until he posted an 11.32 ERA in four July outings.

He was essentially reduced to a mop-up relief role from there, although he did get two September starts.

Because he faded so significantly, the White Sox might be more comfortable using his skill set out of a long relief role. Axelrod is proving he is fresh again, putting together a spring that is as solid as the one he delivered last year.

One more reason the long-relief role makes sense for Axelrod is that it would allow guys such as Charlie Leesman, Andre Rienzo and Eric Surkamp to remain stretched out as starters at Triple-A Charlotte.

Manager Robin Ventura has already said the team sees the value of a long reliever. And if Felipe Paulino and Erik Johnson end up making the Opening Day rotation, Axelrod could end up getting a fair amount of work as those two settle into their roles. Paulino hasn’t pitched since 2012 because of injury, and Johnson is a rookie.