Pirates acquire reliever John Axford from Cleveland

DETROIT -- In a continuing effort to strengthen the low-leverage part of their bullpen, the Pirates on Thursday acquired right-hander John Axford from the Cleveland Indians, according to a source.

The Pirates claimed Axford, 31, off waivers. Fox Sports was the first to report the move.

Axford, 31, has a 3.92 ERA in 432/3 innings this season. He has struck out 10.5 batters per nine innings, but walked 6.5 per nine.

In nine innings of work in July, Axford allowed two earned runs and walked only two, with 11 strikeouts. He has walked four batters in his past three innings.

The Pirates assumed the remainder of Axford’s $4.5 million salary and owe him about $1.1 million for the final month and a half of the season. He will enter his third year of arbitration this winter, and as a former Super 2 player he has four years of arbitration eligibility.

Relievers not named Mark Melancon, Tony Watson, Justin Wilson or Jared Hughes have struggled in recent weeks. Stolmy Pimentel allowed three runs without recording an out Wednesday, and Brandon Cumpton gave up three runs Thursday.

“You’re underneath games, you’ve got to find some innings and some outs from some other people,” manager Clint Hurdle said after Wednesday’s game.

Axford broke into the majors with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2009, and in ’11 he led the National League with 46 saves. He struck out 86 batters in 732/3 innings that season while walking only 25.

His ERA climbed from 1.95 that season to above 4.00 the next two years.

The Seattle Mariners drafted Axford in the seventh round in 2001, but he did not sign. The Cincinnati Reds drafted him four years and one Tommy John ligament replacement surgery later out of Notre Dame, but they decided not to sign him. After stints in independent ball in his native Canada, he spent time in the New York Yankees’ farm system, but wound up as a cell phone salesman.

The Brewers eventually signed him before the 2008 season.

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