Canadian reliever John Axford could get a chance to pitch in the playoffs again.
Axford, a 30-year-old from Simcoe, Ont., was traded from the Milwaukee Brewers to the St. Louis Cardinals Friday for a player to be named later. With Cardinals closer Edward Mujica pitching through shoulder problems, Axford, the Brewers' one-time closer, gives them some insurance in the bullpen.
Axford lost the closer's job with the Brewers this year after posting 81 saves over the previous two seasons, including 46 in 2011 when he finished ninth in Cy Young Award voting. This season he's gone 6-7 with a 4.45 earned-run average and no saves.
The Cards are first in the National League Central and a good bet to make it into the post-season. Axford closed for the Brewers in their 2011 post-season appearance.
PHILLIES SIGN CUBAN
In July, the Philadelphia Phillies were set to spend $48 million on Cuban pitcher Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez before pulling back due to concerns about his pitching elbow.
They wound up getting Gonzalez for a lot less dough Friday, signing him to a three-year, $12 million contract. The deal also has a vesting option for 2017.
"We are very pleased to have come to an agreement with Miguel," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. said. "He is someone our scouts have followed for several years and in our most recent observations of him he showed tremendous stuff. We are hopeful he will pitch out of our starting rotation for 2014 and beyond."
Gonzalez, a 26-year-old righthander who pitched for Cuba in the 2009 and '11 World Cup tournaments, has been assigned to the Phillies spring training complex in Clearwater, Fla.
ORIOLES ADD MORSE
The Baltimore Orioles acquired outfielder Michael Morse from the Seattle Mariners Friday but failed to land another targeted outfielder, Josh Willingham of the Minnesota Twins.
The Orioles sent minor-league outfielder Xavier Avery to Seattle to complete the trade. Avery is playing with triple-A Tacoma.
Morse, a free agent after this season, was claimed on waivers by the Orioles earlier this week. He is hitting just .226 with 13 homers and 27 RBIs in 76 games this season.
The Orioles could make a deal with the Twins for Willingham, whom they also claimed off waivers. Willingham is also struggling offensively this season but has another year on his contract.
Former big leaguer Wladimir Balenien is closing in on the single-season home run record in Japan.
Balenien, who is playing for the Yakult Swallows, hit his 52nd homer of the season Friday against the Yokohama DeNa BayStars in Tokyo. He's just three behind the record held by legendary Japanese slugger Sadaharu Oh and two others, ex-MLBers Tuffy Rhodes and Alex Cabrera.
The Swallows have 30 games remaining in the season so the record is within reach for Balenien, a native of Curacao who played for the Seattle Mariners and Cincinnati Reds before signing with Yakult in 2011.
A trio of Houston Astros minor leaguers, shortstop Jose Fernandez, first baseman Michael Martinez and outfielder D’andre Toney, were suspended 50 games apiece Friday for violating MLB's drug policy. All three tested positive for amphetemines ... Longtime National League umpire Frank Pulli died Wednesday in Florida at age 78 due to complications from Parkinson's disease. Pulli worked in the NL from 1972-99 and umpired four World Series and two all-star games ... The Cleveland Indians acquired outfielder Jason Kubel from the Arizona Diamondbacks and signed catcher Kelly Shoppach to a minor-league deal. Kubel was designated for assignment by the D-Backs earlier this week while Shoppach has been released by three MLB teams this summer, the latest being the Pittsburgh Pirates ... Injured Colorado Rockies reliever Rafael Betancourt told a Venezuelan newspaper he would have Tommy John surgery rather than try to heal with rest and rehab. Surgery on the torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow could end the career of the 39-year-old.