Friday, January 19, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Grant Balfour is no longer the Rays' closer

ST. PETERSBURG — Manager Joe Maddon rarely designates someone as a closer but made a rare exception this offseason, anointing free agent signee Grant Balfour with that role.

Maddon abandoned that approach Monday, a day after Balfour allowed five runs in the ninth inning of a 5-0 loss to Seattle, reverting to a closer-by-committee plan.

"Something's not clicking right now," Maddon said.

Balfour's sputter against Seattle was the second time he allowed five runs in one inning this season. He blew his first of two saves this season at Chicago, giving up a walkoff grand slam in a 9-6 loss. Before that, he had never allowed a five-run inning in his career.

Balfour (0-2, 6.46 ERA) said Sunday's result was especially frustrating because his pitches felt good. He was one pitch from striking out the side but instead surrendered four hits and two walks.

"It's that close from being a non-issue," Balfour said.

Balfour has thrown fastballs on only 55.4 percent of his pitches this year, the lowest number of his career. Maddon said he has discussed that issue with Balfour and that he believes the pitch is still effective, though his velocity is down.

Maddon said he wants to give Balfour fewer pressure-packed situations so he can regain his confidence. In the meantime, Maddon plans to choose his relievers based on matchups and personnel instead of predefined roles.

"We've got a lot of guys with really good stuff," Maddon said. "I'm just looking to get the last out for the win. That's it."

Cards talk: RHP Jake Odorizzi is from Highland, Ill., about 35 miles east of St. Louis, and grew up rooting for the Cardinals. He went to games at the old and new Busch Stadium, watching players like today's starter, RHP Adam Wainwright, so he'll savor the chance to play against one of his childhood role models.

"It'll be pretty special, to be honest," Odorizzi said. "He's a guy you want to model yourself after when you're a young pitcher. He's one of the guys I watched growing up."

Wainwright, a two-time All-Star, is eighth in the majors with a 2.31 ERA and is averaging less than one base runner per inning.

Medical matters: OF Brandon Guyer had his cast removed Monday morning, and X-rays revealed that the fracture in his left thumb had healed.

"It's definitely a lot better than I thought it would be," Guyer said.

Guyer played catch and took a few swings and could progress to hitting coaches' pitches in a day or two with the hopes of returning in mid-June.

C Ryan Hanigan (hamstring) was 0-for-3 with a walk in a rehab start for Class A Charlotte. He could return to the Rays as soon as Wednesday.

Offensive woes: The Rays' nine shutouts are most in the AL and second-most in the majors. They were shut out eight times all of last season.

They were shut out in back-to-back games for the first time since August 2012 against the Orioles. The Rays' stretch of 35 runs in 14 games is the club's worst since April 14-30, 2004.

Miscellany: RHP Alex Cobb has partnered with isoBLOX, a company that makes protective sports gear. He missed two months last year after being hit in the head with a line drive. … The Rays announced a minimalist theme for their road trip to Houston. … RHP Josh Lueke cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Durham. … Former Ray Fernando Rodney earned back-to-back saves against his former team and retired all six batters he faced. … LHP David Price took the AL lead with 111 strikeouts.

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