Grant Balfour returns to Rays as the closer

7:55 PM, Jan 23, 2014   |    comments
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TAMPA, Florida -- There was no hesitation when Rays' principal owner Stu Sternberg said the word "closer" when referring to newly signed Grant Balfour.

The club agreed to a two-year deal worth $12 million with the 36-year-old Australian native.

Balfour is coming off his first all-star season, saving 36 games for the Oakland Athletics with a 2.59 ERA earning 72 strikeouts in 62.2 innings pitched.

This will be Balfour's second stint with the Rays. He was a major contributor in the bullpen during the 2008 American League championship team, as a set-up man. The right-hander pitched for Tampa Bay from 2008-2010 before leaving via free agency to Oakland. During his time with the Athletics, Balfour became their full-time closer posting 62 saves in 67 opportunities.

"I never really wanted to leave the first time around, but I understood that's what happens with budgets," said Balfour.

In December, Balfour had agreed to a two-year, $15 million deal with the Baltimore Orioles, but after a physical, the agreement was negated.

According to Balfour, the Orioles never gave him an exact reason why he failed the physical but prevailing reports indicated a shoulder problem.

Balfour denies any injury or problems and he passed a physical with Rays' physicians prior to completing their contract.

"I'd be lying if I didn't say there wasn't a fire to play them," said Balfour. "It's nothing against the players."

The Balfour acquisition is another move showing the Rays appear to be pushing all their chips to the middle of the table. Their payroll currently resides at $82 million, the most in franchise history and $10 million more than the 2013 playoff season.

Balfour singing could be the final major signing for a record setting off-season for the Rays that included a three-year, $21 million deal for James Loney and a contract renegotiation with David Price.

Pitchers and catchers report to spring training down in Port Charlotte Feb. 14.

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