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Balfour glad for his time in Tampa Bay

Posted Jan 19, 2011 by Roger Mooney

Updated Jan 19, 2011 at 12:58 AM

BY ROGER MOONEY

Before he got around to talking about his contract and pitching in Oakland, Grant Balfour had one thing he wanted to say:

Thank you, Tampa Bay.


“I had a great time here in Tampa Bay,” Balfour said Tuesday evening after he signed a two-year, $8.1 million deal with the A’s that includes an option year for 2013. “I want to thank them for the opportunity they gave me. They hadn’t had a lot of success, so I came at the right time.”

Balfour joined the Rays at the 2007 trade deadline when they were still known as the Devil Rays and were headed to another last-place finish.

We know what happened next:

From worst-to-first in 2008 when the Rays won the American League East title and the American League pennant before bowing to the Phillies in the World Series.

Balfour had a big hand in the turnaround.

He was waived after the ’08 spring training, cleared waivers and was sent to Durham. He wasn’t happy about it.

Wasn’t happy about not making the team.

Wasn’t happy about not being claimed by another team.

Balfour channeled that anger on the mound, when he saved eight games and a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings for the Bulls before being promoted to the Rays on May 30.

Once in St. Pete, Balfour teamed with J.P. Howell to form what Rays manager Joe Maddon called his middle innings “firemen.” The pair was called on to put out fires in the sixth or seventh inning, often times recording the biggest outs of the game.

“It was great to be a part of that,” Balfour said. “It was a nice feeling to do what we did and help turn the organization around, so to speak.”

Balfour bounced back from an off year in 2009 last summer, when he turned in a scoreless performance in 45 of his 57 outings.

Did you know his 10.37 strikeouts per nine innings over his Rays career is the highest in team history?

For this, Balfour felt he deserved a multi-year contract, which is why he declined the Rays offer for arbitration in December and turned free agent.

“The numbers I put up over the past three year I definitely felt I was worthy of that,” he said. “I’m glad other teams felt I was worthy of that, too.”

Balfour said he drew interest from a number of teams, the Rays included, but liked Oakland’s offer the best.

Aside from the money, Balfour thinks the A’s are in great shape to make a postseason run this year. They have a young, talented pitching staff, what is shaping up to be a strong bullpen and a good defense.

“Kind of reminds me of the Rays,” he said.

Still, like those who have left this winter – and there have been many – Balfour wishes the circumstances could be different and the organization had the means to keep the band together, so to speak.

It’s kind of sad that a team that has won two of the last three AL East titles was disbanded so quickly.

“It definitely is,” Balfour said. “It would have been nice if they could keep us. I’m sure the fans here in Tampa Bay feel the same way. But that’s the nature of the game.”

 

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