The Tampa Bay Rays have designated right-handed relief pitcher Grant Balfour for assignment, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.
Balfour, 37, faced the New York Yankees on Saturday night and yielded three runs on three hits and three walks through 2/3 of an inning. In what proved to be the decisive blow, Balfour served up a grand slam to outfielder Chris Young, which for all intents and purposes concluded his stint with Tampa Bay.
A failed attempt to sign with the Baltimore Orioles led to Balfour inking a two-year, $12-million deal to return to the Rays prior to the 2014 season. Balfour was expected to slide into the closer's role and hold down the ninth inning. That did not prove to be the case as he struggled early and never seemed to experience the same success from his first stint in Tampa.
In 65 games for the 2014 Rays, the Australian born Balfour pitched to a 4.91 ERA with 12 saves through 62.1 innings. He lost the closer's role in early June after a string of poor performances. Despite beginning 2015 by pitching to a 0.00 ERA through his first five appearances, the Rays decided that his meltdown on Saturday night was the final straw.
Balfour spoke to Sports Talk Florida about his stint with the Rays coming to a close after the game.
Balfour's once blazing velocity seems to have dissipated. At one point, the former Oakland Athletics closer registered his fastball around 94 MPH, but this season, it is being clocked at just below 90 MPH, according to Fangraphs. But the 6'2, 200 pound right-hander doesn't sound too worried.
"Obviously I don't have the same fastball that I had a couple of years ago, but I will have to figure that out," said Balfour. "Maybe I need the rest, maybe it will do me a world of good, because I don't hurt, the arm actually feels really good."
Losing velocity was not Balfour's toughest loss this year as his father David passed away during Spring Training, likely another factor that played a role in his brief but trying 2015 season.
However, Balfour did record 38 saves for the Athletics just two seasons ago; therefore, he should receive a decent amount of interest from teams looking for bullpen help. Despite the Rays' being on the hook for the Balfour's entire $7-million salary, if another team calls, Balfour sounds willing to help out.
"Who knows, maybe someone will pick me up, I really don't know. If it happens, it happens, if it doesn't, it doesn't."
For his career, Balfour owns a 3.44 ERA with 84 saves through 539 innings pitched for the Minnesota Twins, Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays.