Saturday, February 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays' Balfour looks for positives in blown save

ST. PETERSBURG — RHP Grant Balfour shouldered the blame for his second blown save Thursday night, coming against his former team.

"That's on me," he said.

But Balfour appeared bothered by boos after he gave up the tying run in the ninth inning of a 5-2 11-inning win over the A's.

"Fans can boo me and all that (stuff), but that's fine," Balfour said. "It's not going to help me out, it's not going to help the team out if they sit there and do that. You see the fans behind you and everyone's behind you, the crowd, the whole nine yards, (stuff) is going to go right. You start pulling that (stuff), it's not a good vibe. The fans have got to be pulling for the team, everyone's got to be pulling for the team. You can't be going back and forth like that."

Balfour, who signed a two-year, $12 million deal in the offseason for his second stint in Tampa Bay, has made eight saves in 10 opportunities, though he has a 5.89 ERA. Balfour has 18 walks, including two Thursday (one intentional), along with two hits. The big blow was the tying RBI double by LF Yoenis Cespedes, with Balfour saying he made the wrong pitch (not the one C Jose Molina called).

"Never works out when you do that," Balfour said.

Balfour took positives out of the game, that he stranded the bases loaded to keep it tied, and that the team rallied for a "much-needed win."

"Would have liked to have closed it out," he said.

Manager Joe Maddon continued to support Balfour, noting his issues have been mostly pitch selection and location.

"Grant has got to get better, no question," Maddon said. "But I know there's room to grow."

alex the great: RHP Alex Cobb spent nearly six weeks on the disabled list with an oblique strain.

But Cobb didn't miss a beat Thursday in his anticipated return, scattering three hits in 62/3 scoreless innings. He got a standing ovation.

"He was outstanding," Maddon said.

Cobb gave up one hit through five, and got in his only jam in the sixth, loading the bases with two outs before thwarting the threat. His third straight scoreless start tied a team record and set a club record within one season.

"All things considered, I was really happy," Cobb said. "All three pitches were working, and I was pleased to have the results that we did."

getting close: INF Ben Zobrist said he plans to return by next Friday in Boston. Zobrist, on the disabled list with a dislocated left thumb, felt good fielding grounders before Thursday's game. He said he'll likely get some at-bats in a couple of minor-league rehab games early next week with hopes of rejoining the team for a series at Fenway Park.

"At this point, I'd be surprised if I'm not ready by then," Zobrist said.

cool cole: Rookie INF Cole Figueroa, in his first home start, was thrilled to get his first big-league hit, sparking the seventh-inning rally with a single to right on a called hit and run. Figueroa got the milestone ball. "It felt really good," he said.

pitching in: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (elbow surgery) took another big step in his rehab Thursday in throwing a live batting practice, facing hitters for the first time since October's American League Division Series. Hellickson said he woke up nervous, having never went this long without facing a hitter. He was happy with how it went, throwing 35 pitches (mostly fastballs, with a few curves and changeups). "Everything felt good, that's the main thing," he said. Hellickson said he'll throw another live batting practice Sunday before advancing to a simulated game, with hopes of returning before July.

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