BY: John Mamola
It hasn’t been the best start to a season for Tampa Bay Rays’ closer Grant Balfour since returning to Tampa Bay this past off season. Balfour is coming off a season in Oakland where he saved 38 games in 41 chances with a 2.59 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 72 strikeouts in 62 2/3 innings. This season however has been a complete turnaround as the 36-year old reliever has blown two save opportunities out of 11 chances and his ERA has skyrocketed to 5.49 in just over 19 innings of work.
While Balfour continues to not be the same player in which the Rays expected to see in 2014, reliever Jake McGee is having a career year so far. The 27-year old hurler currently pitching with a career best 1.21 ERA allowing only 13 hits in just over 22 innings of work with 23 strikeouts on the season.
So could Balfour’s position as closer be at risk while he struggles and McGee continues to perform well? Rays television analyst Orestes Destrade told WDAE’s ‘The Ron and Ian Show’ it is too early to pull the plug on the aussie.
“I don’t think they’re going to rush that right now,” said Destrade. “McGee is having an all star type of year, and it was due because he’s been coming with the last couple of seasons being good and now he’s being great. But I don’t think they’re there just yet.”
Balfour made headlines last week with some angry criticisms of the Rays’ faithful fans booing him after he blew a lead against Oakland last Thursday.
"The fans can boo me and all that [stuff], but that's fine," Balfour told reporters after the game. "It's not going to help me out. It's not going to help the team do anything out there when you do that [stuff]. The feeling is, the team's behind you and everybody's behind you -- the crowd, the whole nine yards. Things are going to go right.
"But when you start pulling that [stuff], it's not a good vibe. The team's pulling for the team, so the fans got to be pulling for the team. Everybody's got to be pulling for the team. You can't be back and forth like that. That [stuff] doesn't work. So I'll just walk away positive from it. It's a good win. A much-needed win."
Balfour signed a two-year, 12 million dollar deal this past off season with Tampa Bay.
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