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Balfour returns to Rays, will join Triple-A Durham

Reliever Grant Balfour, who was released by the Rays this week, gets a minor-league contract to return.
Reliever Grant Balfour, who was released by the Rays this week, gets a minor-league contract to return.
Published May 2, 2015

ST. PETERSBURG — RHP Grant Balfour may not be done pitching for the Rays, after all.

Released this week, Balfour passed on overtures from the Cubs, Red Sox and others to agree to a minor-league deal with the Rays, with plans to join Triple-A Durham on Tuesday and work his way back to the big leagues.

"Headed back to Tampa (Bay)," Balfour told the Tampa Bay Times via text. "Want to be able to pitch back in the show with the Rays."

Balfour, 37, was designated for assignment after a rough April 18 outing in which he walked three Yankees, hit another and gave up a grand slam. In 4 1/3 innings over six games, he didn't have a strikeout, acknowledging he didn't "have the same fastball" and, as a result, was reluctant to throw it, relying on breaking balls.

At the time, Balfour said some time to rest and work his way back might be best. He started the season after a spring disrupted by a two-plus week trip to Australia attending to his father, who passed away.

The Rays are obligated to pay Balfour the balance of his $7 million salary, so having him back in the organization to try to make a comeback is something of a bonus. He went 2-6 with a 4.91 ERA, with 41 walks and 57 strikeouts over 62 1/3 innings, in the first season of his two-year, $12 million deal.

Balfour plans to spend two-three weeks with the Bulls, and if he feels ready at that point either the Rays would call him up or he could seek to go elsewhere. "Yeah, mate, would like to pitch with Tampa," he said. "We will see how it goes."

JENNINGS BACK?: After getting a cortisone shot in his sore left knee on Thursday, OF Desmond Jennings is expected to be back in the Rays lineup tonight for the first time since leaving last Saturday's game. If he doesn't play, then he is likely headed to the DL.

If Jennings gets through tonight okay, the Rays will proceed cautiously, scheduling him for DH and off days until the bursitis in his knee is gone.

"Des is doing better," manager Kevin Cash said. "He's so important to what we're doing we want him back. He's been great trying to get back."

MOORE SOONER: LHP Matt Moore is now targeting a mid June return to the Rays rotation, his timetable moved up based on setback-free recovery from April 2014 Tommy John surgery.

Moore takes another big step in his rehab Sunday when he throws to hitters for the first time. After three batting practice/simulated game sessions, Moore is looking to start a rehab assignment he hopes will last no more than four starts.

"It definitely feels more real now," Moore said. "In spring training it was one feeling, now it's more of a right-around-the-corner type feeling."

McGEE LATER: LHP Jake McGee (elbow surgery) made his second rehab appearance, throwing 22 pitches, walking two but allowing no hits, in one inning for Class A Charlotte.

Though McGee was hoping to rejoin the team at the end of next week, Cash said that won't be the case as he will need to make several more rehab appearances, working in multiple innings, and in back-to-back games. On that schedule it would look to be a late May return.

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MORE MEDICAL: INF Nick Franklin (oblique) will work out with the Rays through the weekend, than is scheduled to leave Monday for rehab assignment likely to run at least two weeks. …RHP Alex Cobb (forearm strain) is continuing to throw bullpen sessions but does not have a date yet to face hitters. … RHP Kirby Yates (pectoral strain) said he is on a program of anti-inflammatories and rest, hoping to be out two-three weeks.

ROAD WARRIORS: The Bulls had quite the adventure getting from Allentown, Pa., after Thursday's matinee to Pawtucket, R.I., as both of their buses broke down, turning a 4 1/2 -hourtrip into a nearly nine-hour journey.

The players' bus died as they were leaving Allentown, and after an hour or so wait to see if it could be fixed, they all piled onto the staff bus. That bus, after some directional issues getting through New York, then had power issues, forcing the driver to pull over more than a half-dozen times to hit a reset button, delaying their arrival until after 11 p.m. Meanwhile, Bulls staffers got a truck from Durham to pick up the equipment off the bus and drive to Pawtucket for Friday's game.

MISCELLANY: LHP Everett Teaford cleared waivers and accepted an outright assignment to rejoin Durham. … 3B Evan Longoria logged his 998th hit. …RHP Alex Colome was the 11th rookie to play for the Rays this season. … Sun Sports debuts its Inside the Rays show on Cash after tonight's game.

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