Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays' Grant Balfour says he has been tipping pitches

MINNEAPOLIS — RHP Grant Balfour has made his share of bad pitches, as the 27 walks he has given up in 361/3 innings shows.

But there may be another reason for his rough performance — posting a 5.45 ERA and allowing 29 hits — this season: pitch-tipping.

Balfour acknowledged — without revealing specifics — that there has been an issue and said he has made recent changes in his delivery to correct it.

"I have a few things, and it's been cleaned up," Balfour said. "You look at the numbers and you think maybe they knew what was coming at certain times. That can explain a few things here and there.

"I'm not saying I pitched the best, but it doesn't help when someone knows what's coming. It could be an issue. It's definitely cleaned up, so we'll find out."

Friday against the Twins was a good start. He had just his ninth 1-2-3 one-inning appearance and first since late June. "If you know what's coming, it's definitely a problem," Balfour said.

ARCHED UP: RHP Chris Archer sees today's first post-All-Star-break start as the beginning of a strong push to the end of his first full season in the majors.

"The reason why I put myself through so much in the offseason, in spring training and even early in the season is that in July, August and September, I'm peaking," Archer said. "I want to be at the top level of my performance in these months, and that's the mentality I used to scheduled my regimen toward that."

Archer last pitched July 11 and said the extra time off — including the four-day break — also benefits him. "Those four days of doing nothing really help," he said. "My body feels great. I'm ready to go into the second half of this season strong."

LINING UP: Manager Joe Maddon is juggling two goals in making his lineups this weekend: Getting all the position players involved because the Rays are playing only five games in 11 days, and trying to treat each game as a September must-win as the Rays try to get back into the playoff race as the July 31 trade deadline looms.

Saturday, that meant starting seven right-handed hitters against Twins RHP Phil Hughes in a bid to satisfy both goals. With no lefty starters upcoming, Maddon felt it was the best matchup for some of his right-handed hitters, such as Sean Rodriguez, Brandon Guyer and Logan Forsythe, to get in the lineup. And with data that Hughes has been much tougher on left-handed hitters, Maddon decided to press the advantage, and it worked as those three went 6-for-10 and Rodriguez knocked in three runs, including his career-high 10th homer (six vs. righties).

Left out of the lineup was Matt Joyce, who was 7-for-15 with two homers against Hughes. Maddon did start switch-hitter Ben Zobrist, who had been 0-for-16 against Hughes, and he went 1-for-4.

CATCHING ON: Maddon was impressed with how rookie C Curt Casali handled himself behind the plate in his major-league debut in Friday's 6-2 win, specifically in receiving and blocking balls, and remaining calm. "The guy is definitely ready to be here, emotionally, too, so I'm not afraid to use him," Maddon said.

MISCELLANY: The Rays grounded into five double plays in Saturday's 5-1 win, one shy of the team record set in 2003. … The Rays improved to 14-4 at Target Field. … The Cardinals will start RHPs Adam Wainwright on Tuesday and Lance Lynn on Wednesday. … RHP Jeremy Hellickson is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. today for advanced Class A Charlotte in Clearwater at Bright House Field, then likely rejoin the Rays' rotation next weekend. … The Rays will be among the teams scouting Cuban OF Rusney Castillo at a workout Saturday in Miami. … Performance consultant/sports psychologist Ken Ravizza led a group pregame session.

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