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Rays' Myers, Balfour would be big for 2015 rebound

Tampa Bay Rays right fielder Wil Myers (9) strikes out swinging to end the fourth inning during the Baltimore Orioles against the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field on Tuesday, May 6, 2014.
Tampa Bay Rays right fielder Wil Myers (9) strikes out swinging to end the fourth inning during the Baltimore Orioles against the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field on Tuesday, May 6, 2014.
Published Sep. 26, 2014

BOSTON — Looking ahead to next year, the two things the Rays arguably need the most are a lock-down reliever to deepen the back of their bullpen and a power bat in the middle of their lineup.

Looking across their clubhouse, they conceivably have those guys right now in Grant Balfour and Wil Myers.

Getting Balfour back to his past form, and getting Myers to live up to the potential he has shown, could go a long way toward making the Rays competitive again in 2015.

Balfour thinks he is already there, having pitched considerably, and consistently, better over the last month than the first five.

"I'm kind of at the point where I wish the season was still going on because I feel good right now, I feel like I'm throwing the ball well," Balfour said.

"That's a good thing going into the offseason, knowing I feel good about what I'm doing, the confidence level is high, all that type of stuff. You're not finishing up on a sour note and wondering about if you've still got it and this and that."

Balfour, signed for next year at $7 million, said the combination of adjustments to his mechanics and mentality has him feeling he is as sharp now as when he saved 62 games the previous two seasons for the A's.

"I think I'm as good as I was right now," Balfour said. "I just wish I would have found this niche three months ago."

Manager Joe Maddon said he likes what he has seen, that "this is what we had anticipated from the beginning."

Balfour was removed in early June from the closer's job he was signed to fill, which in turn led to the emergence of Jake McGee as his replacement — and Brad Boxberger as a viable alternative.

Balfour said he would like to reclaim his job as the closer next season and feels he has made a case. "Knowing what I'm doing now, I feel good where I'm at. Hopefully they can see that, and I think they do right now," Balfour said. "That was a big goal of mine a month ago, to finish strong to really show myself and everybody else I can be the guy that they signed."

Maddon said he would prefer to stick with the by-committee approach, using several relievers in high-leverage situations based on the best matchups.

But even then having the old Balfour back could make a huge difference.

"Oh my gosh," Maddon said, "the whole thing gets really interesting between Jake and Boxy and then him."

Myers intrigued the Rays last season by showing what Maddon called "glimpses" of his overall talent after being called up in June, hitting .293 with 13 homers and 53 RBIs in 88 games on his way to winning the American League Rookie of the Year award.

But an admitted lack of work in spring training, a slow start, a broken right wrist that cost him 70 games and an ineffective return left Myers with pedestrian numbers, .218 with six homers and 34 RBIs in 85 games.

"What I did this year is not anything close to what I know I'm capable of doing," Myers said.

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And wasn't any fun.

"You hear people say just go out and have fun," Myers said. "You can't fake having fun when you're going 0-for-4 every day. You can't pretend like you're having fun and you can't pretend to be confident when you're just not. You have to be honest with yourself. That's why I'm telling you that I'm excited for this offseason to get back to work and prepare for next year."

If Myers can play next year like he did last year, Maddon said he definitely could be that impact bat they seek to add to a lineup that ranks near the bottom of the league in runs.

"He's in town already; we just have to draw it out of him," Maddon said. "He's a classic case of development on the major-league level. … You look at him, he's a scout's dream. … Everything is there."

Contact Marc Topkin at mtopkin@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.