TORONTO -- Indians reliever John Axford felt relaxed again on the mound during his appearance in the seventh inning against the Blue Jays on Tuesday night. Perhaps it was the fact that the Canadian was pitching in his home country for the first time as a visitor.
"Maybe that's it, too," Axford said with a smirk. "Tim Horton's, good Canadian maple syrup, poutine. All that's making me feel perfect."
Kidding aside, Axford felt Tuesday's appearance was a step in the right direction for him.
In his first outing since being temporarily removed from his role as Cleveland's closer, Axford needed only 10 pitches to set Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera and Jose Bautista down in order. Reyes and Cabrera each grounded out, and Axford finished the frame off with a three-pitch strikeout against Bautista, who stared at each offering.
Axford -- born in Simcoe, Ontario, and a resident of Port Dover, Ontario -- had a host of family and friends in attendance on Tuesday, and will continue to have familiar faces in the crowd throughout this series.
On Saturday, Axford was informed that he was not going to work as the Tribe's closer for the time being. The right-hander has nine saves in 11 chances this season, but he allowed five runs, issued two walks, surrendered two home runs and labored through 102 pitches in his four outings (three innings) prior to Tuesday's appearance.
Needless to say, Axford was pleased with the results against Toronto.
"Certainly," said Axford, who has a 4.60 ERA with 16 strikeouts against 13 walks in 15 2/3 innings this season. "I got ahead of guys. I didn't throw 30 pitches in an inning. I had a one-two-three inning. It's definitely a step in the right direction. I felt relaxed, if I could sum it up in one word."