The 2014 MLB season has been an unmitigated disaster for the Tampa Bay Rays. Despite having what many perceived as legitimate aspirations toward the World Series, Tampa Bay currently sports the worst record in the league at 24-40, and a portion of that mess can be tied to the ongoing struggles of closer Grant Balfour. However, manager Joe Maddon recently provided some level of a “vote of confidence” to Balfour’s status as the team’s closer.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times weighs in on the situation:
Grant Balfour didn’t really have any answers after his latest ninth-inning collapse, turning a scoreless game — with two outs, nobody on and two strikes on a .167 hitter — into a 5-0 mess of a loss Sunday.
“He’s our closer as of today,” Maddon replied . . . “Even if I was going to change anything, I wouldn’t tell you guys anyhow.”
The 36-year-old Balfour is currently sporting an ugly 6.46 ERA over more than 23 innings (24 appearances), and the peripherals are all over the map. Balfour’s strikeout rate is at a career-low of 7.99 per 9 innings, but the more troubling trend is with his (lack of) control, as the right-hander is currently walking a staggering 7.61 batters per 9 innings.
At this stage, it appears that Balfour is the closer almost out of obligation (he was awarded with a 2-year, $12 million contract prior to the season), but if Tampa Bay can produce an in-house candidate out of the duo of Juan Carlos Oviedo and Jake McGee, the writing could be on the wall for Balfour as the main option in the ninth inning.