When it comes to closing out games, the Oakland Athletics have a secret weapon. Standing on the mound at 6-foot-2 and weighing 200 pounds, the A’s right handed closer has got his rhythm on lockdown this season. Even though he had surgery on his knee just before the start of the 2013 season, he came to spring training with a steady arm and a desire to win. He has become one of the MLB’s pitchers to watch. He is Grant Balfour.
Balfour has been the A’s knight in shining armour. With 18 consecutive saves and only one loss this season, there is not much he can do wrong. He has 35 strikeouts, 12 walks, and a 2.03 ERA. With a 1.13 WHIP, Balfour has been a staple in the A’s bullpen. It’s hard to think that this Aussie never held a closer position until he came to the Oakland.
Originally from Australia, Balfour went undrafted in 1997 and then signed with the Minnesota Twins. He played in the minor leagues until 2001 when he made his MLB debut with the Twins. Throughout his years he bounced from the major to the minor leagues and underwent major elbow surgery in 2005. In 2007, he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers who designated him for assignment.
On the day of his designated assignment, he was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays. He finished out the season with the Rays and signed a one-year contract. Even though he looked solid in spring training in 2008, the Rays designated Balfour for assignment and he played in the minors through most of May. But on May 28th, Balfour was called up from Triple-A to pitch and hasn’t looked back since.
At 35 years old, the A’s are the only team to ever designate Balfour as a closer. After beating out Brian Fuentes for the position in 2012, Balfour was soon demoted after blowing a few saves. But he was not discouraged and regained his closer position that very same season. Starting out the 2013 with 18 consecutive saves has put Balfour front and center on everyone’s radar. We only hope that his success continues throughout the rest of this season.