Grant Balfour‘s Second Stint With Rays Ends
After the game the Rays designated the right handed reliever for assignment and have recalled Brandon Gomes from their Triple-A affiliate Durham Bulls. Gomes had an impressive spring training and left a positive impression on Rays Manager Kevin Cash (More Here).
After hugging numerous teammates and saying his goodbyes he spoke to the media. “I felt my stuff is still there. I don’t have the same fastball I had a couple of years ago.” Balfour said. “I’ll just have to figure that out. Maybe I need the rest. Maybe it will do me the world of good because I don’t hurt. The arm felt really good.”
The Tampa Bay Rays hoped that they were adding a significant piece to their team when they inked him to a 2-year/$12MM deal prior to the 2014 season.
Like so many of the players acquired that winter his season was disappointing as he went 2-6 with a 4.91 ERA and recorded just 12 saves. His fastball velocity dropped to a career low 91.6 miles per hour and he used it a career low 59.4% of the time. In place of the fastball he elected to use his slider which he used 28.6% of the time (career high).
Of course his pitch selection alone wasn’t the issue rather his control was as he had a walks per nine inning rate of 5.92 while maintaining a respectable strikeout rate of 8.23 per nine innings.
He and the Rays expected more coming into the 2015 season but his refusal to throw his fastball and its continued drop in velocity had him turning once again to the slider. “I look up and see 88 or 91 (mph) and I think damn it should be 92 or 93…I feel really good.” Balfour said of his fastball’s velocity. “Maybe I’m just shying away from using the fastball as much.”
Coming into tonight’s game against the New York Yankees Balfour had worked in five games logging 3.2 innings of work and hadn’t allowed an earned run, walked just one batter, but failed to strike anyone out. ”
The trend in pitch utilization continued. Of the 56 pitches he threw only 22 of them were traditional four seam fastballs (39.3%) that averaged 90 miles per hour, seven were two seam fastballs (12.5% [90 mph]), and a whopping 24 (42.9% [85.4 mph]) were sliders.
“I think the Rays as an organization obviously spent the majority part of my career here. Came here in 2007 and took off here.” Balfour said of his time with the Rays. “They Gave me some great opportunities here to pitch. Enjoyed my time here. Enjoyed my run here. Obviously live here with my family and will always follow the guys.”
He hopes that his velocity returns to where it was at the end of the 2014 season (94 mph). “It’s not something I’d like to finish on.” Balfour said of his appearance against New York. “I don’t think anyone draws it up like that. I always told myself that I wanted to be the one to leave this game. Not someone else.”
He is hoping a little bit of rest will be good for him and who knows maybe someone will pick him up and he can continue but admitted that he’s not thinking too far ahead of it.
Best of luck to a class guy.