The Milwaukee Brewers aren't closing the door on John Axford returning as their closer.
The 29-year-old Canadian has been replaced temporarily by Francisco Rodriguez, who picked up two saves this week but struggled in the process.
Axford hasn't been sharp lately, either. He gave up three runs in the ninth inning Tuesday as the Brewers lost 3-2 to the St. Louis Cardinals. It was his sixth blown save in 22 opportunities this season and led to his demotion.
"The idea is to get (Axford) straightened out pretty quick," general manager Doug Melvin said Thursday. "We'll just let it play itself out. We still have confidence in his arm strength. He still has a lot of strikeouts per nine innings (12.4). It's the highest of his career."
In 2011, Axford converted 46 of 48 save opportunities and posted a 1.95 earned-run average. His ERA this season is 5.17.
Rodriguez, 30, was a closer earlier in his career with the Los Angeles Angels and New York Mets. He needs only six more saves to reach 300.
SETBACK SLOWS DIRKS
Andy Dirks, sidelined for two months because of tendinitis in his right Achilles, has had a setback that will delay a rehab assignment.
The Detroit Tigers outfielder, who was off to a strong start this season with a .328 batting average in 37 games, resumed running the bases this week but reported soreness and was shut down again.
"It wasn't too good," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said Thursday. He said the 26-year-old has stopped doing any baseball-related activities.
Dirks, who went through a week of workouts in Lakeland, Fla., hoped he wouldn't be out for long. He said a rehab assignment next week was still a possibility.
STOREN BACK, ANKIEL OUT
Reliever Drew Storen returned Thursday to the Washington Nationals after missing 89 games following surgery to remove a bone chip from his right elbow. Storen, who had 43 saves last season, pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning in the Nationals' 9-4 loss to the New York Mets.
To make room for Storen on the roster, outfielder Rick Ankiel was designated for assignment.
Ankiel was hitting .228 for Washington. There was speculation that the New York Yankees would be interested in picking up the 33-year-old, who is strong defensively.
KENDALL CATCHES ON
Catcher Jason Kendall, a three-time all-star who hasn't played in the majors since 2010, has signed a minor-league contract with the Kansas City Royals.
The 38-year-old batted .256 in 118 games during the 2010 season, which was cut short because of major surgery on his right shoulder.
Kendall is a career .288 hitter in 2,085 games with Pittsburgh, Oakland, the Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee and Kansas City.
The Royals have assigned him to double-A Northwest Arkansas.
The Chicago Cubs acquired pitcher Justin Germano for cash Thursday from Boston. The 29-year-old right-hander had been designated for assignment by the Red Sox. He might come in handy should the Cubs trade Ryan Dempster and/or other pitchers, as expected, by the July 31 deadline ... St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter, who hasn't appeared this season because of nerve damage in his right shoulder, had neurogenic thoracic outlet surgery in Dallas, the team announced Thursday. Carpenter, 37, will stay in Texas for a few days to recover before returning to St. Louis to begin his rehab and should be ready for 2013 spring training ... Chicago White Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis has been bothered a sore hamstring and was not in the starting lineup Thursday.