Two years removed from reconstructive surgery, John Axford is pain-free and moving towards regaining his entire repertoire.
"My curveball's been back since Tommy John," he said. "My changeup's actually coming round real well right now in Staten Island, and the fastball's picking up velocity, it's been maintaining much better."
"I threw a little harder before Tommy John, so there are a few things I got to iron out in my arm path which hasn't really been fixed since I had surgery. It kind of got this hitch since I had surgery, so if I get that out of the way, I think things will work out much better for me."
Once able to touch 98 MPH with his fastball, he currently sits consistently at 90-91 and has touched 94 several times as he works back.
Adding a few more ticks could be a scary thought since Axford has struck out a batter an inning across four minor-league levels this season, including brief stints in High-A Tampa and Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre.
"It was interesting pitching at all of them and being able to see what it's going to be like in the future hopefully," Axford said. "Down here it's a little different, in short-season or even Low-A ball, hitters can make adjustments game-to-game or at-bat to at-bat, but I remember in a Triple-A game I was pitching, guys were making adjustments in the at-bat itself.
"If I threw a changeup, they remembered it and they knew the next time I threw it, that they were going to hit it. Guys are definitely thinking a lot more. It's more of a mental approach when you get up there, so that's what I'm working on now."
"The same things I need to work on down here are the things I need to work on up there," he added. "I just have to pound the zone a little bit more with my fastball."
Axford has confidence in his ability to get batters to swing-and-miss at any level, even as he builds up his arm strength, but he readily admits that his high walk total is a concern. In 46 innings this season, he has walked 33.
"I really got to back that off and cut that down," Axford said. "I think the less guys I start walking, the less pitches I throw, the more dominant I can be."
"It doesn't matter how hard you throw or how many pitches you have in your repertoire, if you're falling behind in the count, they know a fastball's going to be coming eventually, and they're going to hit it."
The tall right-hander has had the most trouble locating his fastball and believes it's a matter of maintaining his mechanics.
"It's just a matter of keeping my body together, and my arm slot in the same spot, and I've been having trouble with that," he explained. "Even through college I was having trouble with that, but I think that was just because I was younger and didn't have as much body awareness."
"Now I'm a little stronger, I'm a little bigger, but the awareness still has to come back after the surgery. It still hasn't figured itself out."
Axford is focused on helping Staten Island win, but he also hopes to help himself by ironing out the last wrinkles from his Tommy John surgery. If he can do that, he could make the Yankees very happy and make the 29 other teams upset they passed on him in the draft.
Axford Back On Track
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