Bits: Grant Balfour ineffective of late 

September, 13, 2013
Oakland Athletics right-hander Grant Balfour saw his first action of the week in Thursday’s 8-2 win over the Minnesota Twins. It wasn’t a save opportunity, but Balfour hadn’t pitched since Friday, when he needed 35 pitches to close out the Houston Astros for his 37th save. Overall, Balfour is having a terrific season, but watching him Thursday he sure didn’t look like his ol' dominant self, and one has to wonder if his recent admission of arm fatigue will present more of a problem than a first-place team wants to deal with, especially with a huge series this weekend in Texas against the second-place Rangers.

On Thursday, Oswaldo Arcia and Josh Willingham squared up hits to left field, two other right-handed hitters were able to pull fastballs to third base, there was a wild pitch and for the third time in four outings the right-hander did not register a strikeout. It was also the fifth time in seven outings Balfour allowed multiple hits in an inning, though this time he didn’t permit a run. The velocity was fine, in the 94-95 mph range, but the Twins weren’t missing it. Perhaps it’s nothing major, but with basically no big league closer situations changing over the past month -- the Houston Astros just don’t count -- it’s not a bad time to preemptively add Athletics right-handed setup man Ryan Cook just in case.

[+] EnlargeGrant Balfour
Brian Bahr/Getty ImagesGrant Balfour has allowed 14 hits and nine walks in his past 11 2/3 innings.
Balfour surely isn’t the only tired closer at this point of the season, but as he told the San Jose Mercury News about the fatigue, “It would be one thing if it was June. But this late in the season it’s all good.” Well, it’s not actually all good, not with an ERA of 5.06 and 1.78 WHIP in the past month. Of course Balfour wants to keep on closing, but look for Cook or lefty Sean Doolittle to see the occasional chance if the Athletics get save opportunities on consecutive days.