Results tagged ‘ Grant Balfour ’
In a 1-2-3 inning against the Dodgers Grant Balfour earned his 2nd Hold in so many games today. He looked sharp and relaxed and needed only 10 pitches to retire the side when he threw in the 6th.
It is expected that he might have one more mid-game inning before slotting back into the closer role before The Cactus League concludes next week. It’s looking very likely he will be there on Opening Day.
Grant Balfour started and wrapped up 2012 as a closer, tallying elite numbers if not totals and enters ’13 as the well-deserved front-runner
By William Boor/MLB
GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Besides the precautionary ice pack on his right knee, Grant Balfour showed no signs of his recent knee surgery after his Cactus League debut on Thursday in the A’s 10-9 victory over the Reds.
“I don’t worry about [my knee],” Balfour said. “I don’t feel anything in there, it feels great. I’m out there focusing on pitching and making pitches…. I know I have to take care of it, but I’m not thinking about it. When I go out on that mound, I’m thinking about getting that guy out. There’s one thing on my mind, and that’s a good thing.”
Exactly five weeks after having arthroscopic surgery, Balfour pitched a scoreless sixth inning with one strikeout, no hits and no walks on Thursday.
The 35-year old right-hander needed only nine pitches — seven fastballs and two breaking balls — to get through the inning.
“I got one [radar gun] reading at 94, so his velocity was there too,” manager Bob Melvin said. “He seemed to have some passion out there like he normally does.”
Although he pitched in a Minor League game on Monday, Balfour said he welcomed the adrenaline rush of coming out of the bullpen to pitch against Major Leaguers.
“Today was really good, I was happy,” Balfour said. “I had some good life on the fastball.”
When Balfour had his surgery on Feb. 14, he was told the rehabilitation process would take four to six weeks. Determined not to miss any time and begin the season on the 25-man roster rather than the disabled list, Balfour worked hard and accelerated his training this spring.
“Mentally, when you tell me four to six weeks, I’m thinking the early part,” Balfour said. “The season [was] in six weeks, so it had to be four. In my mind, I’m starting the season no matter what.”
The Athletics expect Balfour to pitch about four more times this spring, but Melvin said that number is not concrete.
Balfour, who recorded 24 saves as the A’s closer in 2012, did not pitch the ninth inning in either Monday’s Minor League game or in Thursday’s game.
While Melvin said Balfour may pitch the ninth in one of the final three exhibition games against San Francisco, the nine-year veteran does not feel pitching the ninth is necessary for his preparation.
“As long as I’m throwing the ninth inning when it counts, when the season starts, I’m happy,” Balfour said.
William Boor is an associate reporter for MLB.com.
by Tony Capobianco/TucsonCitizen.com
The World Baseball Classic enjoyed its finest edition in 2013 and a lot of countries have benefited from it. Italy’s competitive run to the second round have boosted interest in the sport. Despite being driven by players from Curacao, the Netherlands’ semi-final success is also expected to boost interest.
“Any success you have on the world stage will definitely help baseball in their country,” said Australian Trent Oeltjen of the Los Angeles Angels. Like in Italy, I hear they’re going crazy over there for the Italian team.”
Even in Australia, where the former English colony have cricket as a popular sport, the sport of baseball is slowly growing there. The national team went winless in Pool B but their success in the past, along with a growing number of Australian Major Leaguers has allowed baseball to grow.
“It is getting a lot better,” Oeltjen said. “When I won the silver medal in Athens and more and more people making the Major Leagues out of Australia, there’s more of a following in Australia.”
In terms of Major League presence, having Australians making it to the Major Leagues help build the interest of baseball in that country more than anything else. Since the beginning of the 21st century, 21 Australians have made it to the Major Leagues. 16 of them are pitchers.
“We have a lot of lefties,” said Australian pitcher Travis Blackley of the Oakland Athletics. “It seems like a lot of lefties always sign out of Australia. What position do lefties normally sign as?”
In this era of baseball, pitchers are like quarterbacks. It is actually easier for pitchers to make it through the minor leagues in into MLB than other positions. Why pitchers go from Australia to the Major Leagues is sometimes because of the lack of pitching mileage that Aussie pitchers have compared to American pitchers.
“We also don’t throw as much as you guys so when its gets to the point where we come over here,” said Australian pitcher Peter Moylan of the Los Angeles Dodgers. “We throw half as much as you guys. So I feel like our arms haven’t been through as much. Kids in high school, kids in travel-ball teams over here, they throw every day. I didn’t throw every day until I was signed and that was when I was 17 years old.”
There’s not that many power hitters coming out of Australia, nor is there many position players in general coming out of Australia. They haven’t been conditioned to face and beat top level pitching like those in the college and minor league system here in America.
“You guys see live pitching from a real young age over here,” Moylan said. “We don’t see live pitching until we turn 11 or 12 years old. So the whole development you guys get is the key what makes guys better hitters.”
However Blackley believes that because many pitchers have made it to the Major Leagues and even in the minor leagues, they’ll better prepare the Aussie hitters to follow the trend. But it will take some time.
“You’ll see that number start to get better,” Blackley said. “They’re starting to get a lot more young good hitters coming through because they’re facing a lot these pitchers now that have made it pretty deep into their careers in America where there’s Double A, Triple A. That just makes the hitting better. Even if they get dominated at first, they start to get better.”
Baseball interest in Australia has recently grown to the point to where Major League Baseball helped found the Australian Baseball League, which goes on during the MLB offseason. Major Leaguers like Blackley would go back to Australia to pitch in order to stay in shape. But players there have a different look at Blackley when he pitched in the ABL.
“I noticed that I pitched in Australia this offseason and guys were pretty pumped up in the box looking to get a hit off me,” Blackley said. “There’s a little bit more pressure on me pitching over there. Everyone watching expects you to strike them out, everyone. They definitely hold me to a higher standard if I’m out there pitching even though I’m out there throwing offseason. They expect me to dominate and it’s not realistic.”
Their profiles have grown as professional athletes in Australia, some more than others. Their presence in the sport has truly helped grow baseball there. Trent Oeltjen has a little league near his home where teams there replicate the MLB teams that Oeltjen played for such as the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers.
“I did a few more TV interviews and radio interviews but still to the general public,” Moylan said. “I was still just a regular guy walking down the street.”
“This didn’t happen in the past,” Blackley said. “It wasn’t a big deal at all. The people in my sport tried to make a bigger deal out of me. I think they were trying to promote the sport.”
“It’s funny because there’s a band in Australia that’s one of my favorite bands and the main guy out of that band is a huge baseball fan. And we got along like a house on fire. I hung out with him almost every week. I went on tour with him. He’s a massive Oriole fan. But he’s now an A’s fan as well but he says, ‘I can go for you against the Orioles if your pitching.’ Now he’s like, ‘I’m an O’s fan and an A’s fan, BUT, if they’re head to head I’m an O’s fan. If you’re pitching I’m an A’s fan.’”
There are many more Australians playing professional baseball in the minor leagues now than before so it’s only a matter of time until their presence makes a similar impact in Major League Baseball as Latin America has over the year, whether or not that impact grows Australia’s interest in baseball remains to be seen.
“I think it lifts the profile of baseball amongst people who are interested in baseball,” Moylan said. “It’s not going to make adventure to people who are Aussie Rules Football fans and have not watched a baseball game. It’s not something that people grew up on.”
It was the Balfour/Blackley show today in the A’s 10-9 win over the Reds.
In his first true outing for the Spring Grant came on in the 6th and had a 1-2-3 inning. He struck out one and induced two groundouts in a 9 pitch outing which would have pleased him and the whole organisation.
Travis then came on and threw the last three innings giving up a run in each inning for 5H, 3R, 1BB, 3K. He also officially got the Save whilst Grant got a Hold.
By Jane Lee
PHOENIX — The ultra-competitive Grant Balfour wasn’t too happy when he learned that his first game action of the spring would come in a Minor League setting. But he was in a better mood upon his return from the Monday outing, when he was able to report good health.
That’s all that really mattered, anyway, never mind his surroundings.
The closer, who underwent minor surgery on his right knee just a month ago, made 17 pitches and “didn’t feel anything in my knee,” he said.
“It was fine,” he continued. “I wasn’t thinking about it at all, so now it’s about getting ready and going through those speed bumps I get. It’s Spring Training — same old, same old, trying to get my arm going.”
Balfour admitted to giving up a couple of hits and runs, but “that was kind of expected,” he said. The right-hander is notorious for his spring struggles, so he was just happy he made it through the entire first inning.
“That was a plus,” he said, laughing. “Got all three outs.”
Balfour compiled a strikeout and two fly balls in that span, never once needing to make a play himself and test his knee.
“Just the outfielders doing all the running today,” he joked.
The 35-year-old veteran is now tentatively scheduled to make his Cactus League debut on Thursday, against the Reds, and is expected to make five appearances before regular-season play begins April 1.
“I wanted to go out there today because it doesn’t really do me much going over there,” he said. “I know I needed to get that out of the way, though, I guess. I think I had more intensity going into live batting practice than I did today. For some reason I just can’t really seem to get it going in those games over there. That’s all right. I got my pitches in and an inning under my belt, too.”
By Jane Lee/MLB.com
PHOENIX — Barring any unforeseen setbacks, A’s closer Grant Balfour will make his Cactus League debut on Monday.
The veteran right-hander made this known just minutes after throwing 24 pitches to hitters on Friday, marking the second time he had done so since undergoing minor knee surgery four weeks ago.
Balfour followed up the session with a round of running drills, and he said his knee responded to both very well. In fact, “my knee’s just kind of a thing of the past now,” he said.
“Obviously I have to take care of it,” Balfour continued, “but I really haven’t been thinking about it. I’m just out there worried about hitting my spots with my fastball and throwing that breaking ball for a strike.”
Balfour made use of all of his pitches on Friday, never once inducing a hard-hit ball. That didn’t mean he was happy with all of them, though, as his mound manners suggested. More than once the fiery right-hander shared an expletive when a pitch strayed from his target, just as he would during the regular season.
“I treat it like any game and try to get myself fired up,” he said. “I’m sure they’re not taking at-bats like they would in a game, but for the most part the ball’s coming out of my hand good, and I felt like I was getting late swings on my fastball. I even threw it by a couple guys. I like that when they take a pitch that I spot up, I know that I made a good pitch.”
Hiroyuki Nakajima was among those who faced Balfour, who he had never seen pitch before. The shortstop said Balfour is “very much intimidating” and he’s glad “he’s on our side.”
“After seeing him pitch, I’m now skeptical he even had surgery,” Nakajima joked.
Balfour will have two weeks of preseason action to prepare for the regular season, just as he drew it up following his procedure.
“That’s plenty of time,” he said.
Balfour faced live hitters Tuesday for the first time since his February knee surgery.
By Nathen Aderhold/mlbdailydish.com
Oakland Athletics closer took a big step Tuesday towards being ready for Opening Day, facing batters for the first time since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in mid-February.
Balfour had an operation to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee on February 14, and was expected to be sidelined for at least four to six weeks. The right-hander entered camp expecting his knee to be fine, but immediately opted for an operation when that turned out not to be the case.
Knee injuries seem to have a way of lingering — see: Gamel, Mat — but Balfour has yet to be hit by any kind of setbacks. In fact, the 35-year-old has been ahead of schedule in his recovery from the get-go, and is looking to take the hill for the A’s much earlier than expected.
The Australian right-hander threw his first bullpen session well over a week ago, and could see his first Spring Training action very soon.
Balfour has been a huge asset in the Oakland bullpen the last two seasons — posting a 2.50 ERA and 8.6 K/9 rate in 136⅔ innings for the A’s. The fierce right-hander took over closer duties in 2012 and racked up 24 saves as the Athletics surprised their way to the AL West title.
By Nathan Humpherys/ MLB.com
PHOENIX — Team Australia may have been eliminated from the World Baseball Classic, but there are a few players from the Land Down Under who are just getting warmed up for the Major League season.
Baseball has been in Australia since the 1850s, when American gold miners first brought the game over, but it never really gained widespread popularity.
“It’s seventh or eighth on the list,” Angels outfielder Trent Oeltjen, a native of Sydney, said. “You know, rugby and cricket are the two main sports in Australia, followed by swimming and a couple others, so with our small population, there’s just not that many people playing baseball. The kids generally go into rugby and cricket.”
Joe Quinn was the first of 28 Australian-born players in the Majors, playing from 1884-1901. It took more than 80 years for the next Australian Major Leaguer to arrive, when infielder Craig Shipley made his debut with the Dodgers in 1986.
Twenty of the 28 Australia-born Major Leaguers have been pitchers, with current Oakland reliever Grant Balfour, also from Sydney, leading the list in strikeouts and saves. Balfour said he was around 7 years old when he and his father were first introduced to the game.
“We sort of came across the game being played, went up to some people and sort of said, ‘Hey, what have we got to do to get started?’ and stuff like that,” Balfour said. “I came back the next week and stared playing T-ball. From there, it took off.”
Balfour’s father co-founded a youth baseball club, and before long, the two of them were rising through the ranks.
“We sort of moved up the whole way together, until we got to where I was playing for Australia and he was coaching,” Balfour said.
Father and son kept their roles of coach and player until Balfour moved to the United States to play in the Majors.
Part of what intrigued Balfour about baseball was how difficult it was to master.
“It’s a tough game to nail down. It’s definitely not easy,” he said, adding that, “trying to get a grasp of the whole game and learn the game and trying to excel at the best level is a challenge.”
Balfour’s A’s teammate and fellow Australian-born pitcher Travis Blackley became interested in baseball after watching his younger brother, former Red Sox prospect Adam Blackley, play the game. Like Balfour, he was drawn in by the complexity of the game.
“It was the fact that you couldn’t be good at it every day,” he said. “I was pretty good at most sports, pretty athletic. Not the best at them, but pretty decent. And that was the sport I found instantly like, ‘Woah, what is this? This is new. I don’t know how to be good at this yet,’ and it just kind of sucked me in.”
Oeltjen’s American father introduced him to baseball, and Oeltjen enjoyed the faster pace of the game.
“Cricket’s a little slow, and it can take a couple days to complete a match,” he said. “I wasn’t too into that, so that’s how I got into baseball.”
When Australian players move to the United States, getting used to the grind of a long baseball season can be their biggest challenge on the field, but the hardest part of the transition happens outside of the ballpark.
“We come over here at 17, 18 years old, fresh out of high school, and it’s a bit of a culture s
hock here on the other side of the world,” Oeltjen said.
The distance between players and their loved ones can make it especially difficult.
“Over here, if something happened, you could probably give them a call and they could be there the next couple hours or the next day,” Oeltjen said, “whereas Australia, it’s half a world away so it takes a little bit longer and it’s a little harder with the time differences to contact everyone back there.”
Though many people in Australia don’t follow baseball themselves, Blackley said they’re usually pretty excited to see their fellow countrymen do well at the highest level of the sport.
“They appreciate the fact that the MLB is like, to them, like the UEFA of soccer or like the English Premier of soccer or like the NFL,” he said. “They see it on TV, they see how big it is over here, so for an Aussie to be in that, they’re pretty happy about it.”
Over the past decade, Australian baseball players have started to get more notice than ever before, such as when Oeltjen and his Olympic teammates brought home the silver medal for baseball in the 2004 Athens Games. And while Blackley doesn’t really get recognized around town when he goes back home to Melbourne, it’s another story when he tries to go and watch a game. After the dynamic season the A’s had last year, going to the ballpark could mean courting chaos.
“I had to keep out of the stands,” he said. “Before I could walk through the stands, no worries, and just people would know. But now the kids — you see 50 A’s hats at a game. It’s pretty crazy. Not just cause of me, but because of Balfour. They love Balfour.”
For his part, Balfour hopes that the recent success of the A’s can get more young Aussies interested in baseball.
“I don’t get a chance to go back that much anymore, but definitely there’s guys, I’m sure, that look up to you,” he said. “That’s good, that’s what you want to see, because I’d like to see some more kids get over here and keep signing and represent Australia in the big leagues.”
Nathan Humpherys is an associate reporter for MLB.com.
From Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle comes word that Grant Balfour faced live hitters on Tuesday for the first time since undergoing right knee surgery on February 14.
Balfour will probably face hitters in A’s camp another three or four times before being cleared to make his Cactus League debut. Relief pitchers usually only need a handful of spring training appearances to get properly tuned up for the season, so he should be fine for Opening Day if he can avoid setbacks.
Balfour registered a fantastic 2.53 ERA and 0.92 WHIP in 75 appearances with the A’s last season, striking out 72 batters in 74 2/3 innings.
The fiery 35-year-old will serve as Oakland’s closer this summer if he is healthy.