Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)


Rays' Maddon praises 'fired up' Balfour

ST. PETERSBURG — Grant Balfour has proved his point to Joe Maddon. And the manager was more than willing to be the object of his reliever's scorn if it produced the kind of pitcher the 30-year-old is becoming since joining the Rays on May 30.

Balfour, who didn't make the club out of spring training and began at Triple-A Durham, recorded two massive outs in the seventh inning Thursday night after the Cubs took a 3-1 lead and threatened more, then tossed another scoreless inning as the Rays scored seven times in the seventh for an 8-3 win. He's 2-0 with a save and a 1.75 ERA.

"You look at his numbers in Triple A and you have to believe it lit some kind of fire," Maddon said. "Those were very good. He's just been different.

"He comes off, he's fired up. You can see it in his eyes. He's on the verge of really believing in himself right now and once he does, with his stuff, there's no telling what he can do."

Pitching coach Jim Hickey called Balfour's Durham stats — including one earned run allowed in 232/3 innings —"cartoonish" and indicative that he was ready for such pivotal situations as Thursday. Balfour struck out three to win for the second straight outing.

"It was obvious he's throwing probably as well as he's thrown in his life, and we're going to go ahead and use him right away, and put him in situations where the game is on the line, not try to ease him into it," Hickey said. "Why waste him when a guy's on a hot streak like that? He's given us a number of high quality innings."

Tag team: 3B Evan Lon­goria had just one chance at shortstop Thursday in his unexpected tuneup for Jason Bartlett's quick-approaching paternity leave, but the rookie says he'll adjust quickly to the position because 2B Akinori Iwamura will make all the defensive calls. But Longoria has not attempted to turn a double play since he played for Long Beach State, and collegiate baserunners weren't allowed to try to cut him in half.

"You have to go straight into the bag (in college), so it's a little bit different, but I'm ready for it," he said. "I've worked out there on the bag, just done some work. If the time comes, I'll be ready for it."

What DO I say? Longoria forgot for "five or six innings" Thursday night that he was wearing a microphone for MLB Productions and isn't quite sure what he might have said but, overall, isn't too concerned. "They edit it and stuff, so I really don't have to worry about what I say," he said. "There are things that won't be heard. It's just part of the way and the culture in this clubhouse."

Feeling better: 1B Carlos Pena said his broken left index finger feels "head-over-heels" better, and he anticipates returning to the lineup next week after a scheduled evaluation Sunday. He is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list and continued to take infield practice Friday and hit in the cage. … Bartlett returned to the lineup after missing Thursday's game with a bruised foot.

MISCELLANY: With a 4.5 average household TV rating (81,000 HH) in the Tampa/St. Petersburg market Thursday, the Rays' win over the Cubs posted the highest rating on FSN Florida since the team's inception and was No. 2 during its time period behind Ch. 13. … According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Rays are the first AL team to win nine consecutive home series since Oakland won 12 straight in 2005. … CF B.J. Upton threw out the Astros' Miguel Tejada trying to stretch a third-inning single into a double, tying him for the AL lead with eight outfield assists. Former Ray Delmon Young, now with the Twins, also has eight.

Times staff writer Joe Smith contributed to this report.

Rays' Maddon praises 'fired up' Balfour 06/20/08 [Last modified: Friday, June 20, 2008 11:33pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Florida Gators announce 2018 football schedule


    The Florida Gators announced their 2018 football schedule Tuesday, including an early SEC game against Kentucky and a matchup against Colorado State, which was part of coach Jim McElwain's buyout from the Rams.

  2. For starters: Rays vs. Cubs in Joe Maddon's return to Trop


    Joe Maddon's return to the Trop will be the main story tonight, but there is still a baseball game to be played, between a Cubs team surging toward another division title with six straight wins and a Rays team struggling to keep alive a longshot bid for the second AL wildcard spot.

    RHP Chris Archer will be on …

    Joe Maddon returns to Tropicana Field tonight for the first time since leaving the Rays to become manager of the Cubs.
  3. Cannon Fodder podcast: Bucs could run into their nemesis


    Greg Auman finishes wrapping up the Bucs' win against the Chicago Bears and looks ahead to Sunday's game at Minnesota, where Tampa Bay could run into nemesis Case Keenum, in our latest Cannon Fodder …

    Bucs outside linebacker Lavonte David (54) sacks Los Angeles Rams quarterback Case Keenum (17) during a 2016 game. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  4. Strange case: Bucs could face nemesis Case Keenum again


    Who, you might wonder, will be the first NFL quarterback to beat Jameis Winston three times?

    Case Keenum of the Minnesota Vikings drops back to pass in the first half Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. [Getty Images]
  5. USF men's basketball gets off lightly with NCAA


    Former USF men's basketball coach Orlando Antigua, center, with former assistants Oliver Antigua, left, and Rod Strickland during a game at the Sun Dome on Nov. 9, 2015. (Octavio Jones, Times)