ST. PETERSBURG — RHP Grant Balfour knows that you've heard this before.
But after a third straight solid, successful, stress-free outing, working the 10th inning in Monday's 4-3 win over the Red Sox, he feels he may have corrected the issues that have marred what has been a mutually frustrating season.
"I know what I'm doing out there. I've got a few little things," he said. "I know I've said that before this year, but I like where I'm at right now. The last three outings, the stuff that I've done, it kind of feels good right now. So I feel good about what I'm doing, minimizing pitches and getting outs."
Manager Joe Maddon noted in the morning that Balfour was throwing more freely and easily than he had been, not grinding through his delivery. Balfour said that mental and mechanical adjustments have made his pitches sharper. "A bit of everything," he said. "It's one mechanical thing that I felt just clicked for me, and I was like, where was this five months ago?"
As lost as this season has been, it's beneficial for the Rays and Balfour, who is signed for 2015 at $7 million, that he go into the offseason feeling better about things. "No doubt I want to finish strong and go into the offseason knowing I finished strong," he said. "It's one of those things where I wish the season kept going because you don't want to stop when you're feeling good."
TOUGH WELCOME: Maddon said he was eager to see RHP Steve Geltz, the one first-time Ray added to the roster Monday along with C Curt Casali and RHP Brandon Gomes, who also were called up, and OF/DH David DeJesus, who was activated off the DL.
And Maddon didn't wait to test Geltz, who had two solid seasons at Triple-A Durham (and two games with the Angels in 2012), bringing him in against Boston with the Rays leading by one and the tying run on second. Six pitches later, a Yoenis Cespedes single tied it.
"I like Geltz's stuff. I liked him in spring training," Maddon said. "I really thought he could do it."
Maddon said better pitcher selection would have benefitted Geltz. And he acknowledged extenuating circumstances in using him. RHP Joel Peralta wasn't available, LHP Jake McGee was warming up then only to keep the Sox from using David Ortiz as a pinch-hitter, and Balfour was likely limited to one inning.
Speaking before the game, Geltz said he learned a lesson from the 50-game suspension he served May-June after testing positive for what MLB calls a drug of abuse. "It was a mistake that I made in the offseason, just having a little too much fun with my friends, and I paid the price," he said.
SMYLY GUY: LHP Drew Smyly allowed only three hits while working into the sixth but acknowledged he wasn't as sharp as in his previous outings: "Honestly, I felt a little out of whack. I thought I battled pretty good, made pitches when I needed to, but I wasn't really getting ahead like I'd like." Though the Rays are limiting his innings — now a career-high 147 — Maddon said he will make at least one more start.
LINEUP SHUFFLE: With Maddon hoping he can spark the offense, DeJesus was at DH for his first action since mid June, going 0-for-3. With OF Desmond Jennings out with a sore left knee — though improving; he ran Monday — Maddon will use DeJesus as the DH, but he said it will be tricky when Jennings returns to work in those two plus Kevin Kiermaier, Matt Joyce and Wil Myers into four slots.
MINOR MATTERS: Rookie-level Princeton was playing Danville (Braves) on Monday night to stay alive in the Appalachian League playoffs. … The Rays and Durham extended their working agreement through 2018. … Class A Bowling Green missed the Midwest League playoffs. Short-season A Hudson Valley (N.Y.-Penn) and Durham (International) are going on.
MISCELLANY: To make room for Geltz, C Ali Solis was outrighted off the 40-man roster and accepted the assignment to stay with Durham. … The Rays' streak of games with an error ended at eight. … 3B Evan Longoria knocked in two runs, giving him 34 in 41 games since the All-Star break.