NEW YORK — Closer Grant Balfour walked off the mound not once but twice Thursday with his old swagger after finishing off the Red Sox in both ends of the doubleheader, and to manager Joe Maddon, that meant one thing.
“Very valuable,” Maddon said Friday before the Rays’ game with the Yankees.
Balfour was upset with himself after allowing five ninth-inning runs to the White Sox on the first night of this road trip largely because he pitched away from contact and was not aggressive enough with his fastball.
That changed Thursday. Balfour attacked the Red Sox hitters and even convinced Maddon to let him pitch to DH David Ortiz in the ninth inning of Game 1 with first base open.
“That was like the old Grant,” C Jose Molina said.
Maddon said the fact Balfour was adamant he could get Ortiz for the last out of the game told him Balfour’s confidence was on the rise.
“I want to believe and I got to believe and I think I do believe that moving forward, based on what he did (Thursday), it’s got to really pick up his confidence a lot,” Maddon said.
Balfour became the first Rays pitcher to earn a save in both ends of a doubleheader but not the first to record two saves in the same day. Rafael Soriano earned the save in the completion of a suspended game April 17, 2010, at Fenway Park then saved the scheduled game.
Trying time for Odorizzi
RHP Jake Odorizzi, today’s starter, is 0-3 with a 9.17 ERA in his last four starts.
“It’s probably the most difficult stretch of my career, honestly,” he said. “I never had this amount of struggle this many starts in a row. Just kind of (stinks) being up here, the highest level of doing it and not doing well. I’m going to work past it.”
Odorizzi said his problems are not mechanical and that he’s able to throw all his pitches. The problem is he just can’t execute those pitches.
“Got to go out and do it, be consistent with it,” he said. “Good things will come. Hopefully this start will be a start to the springboard to the rest of the season.”
Odorizzi said what he is going through is part of the learning curve all young pitchers experience when they reach the major leagues.
“It is. He’s young. He’s not had a lot of experience,” Maddon said. “I like his stuff a lot. I think he can be a very successful major league pitcher. He’s going to be, but for right now he’s going through some growth moments. The one thing you have to do right now, sometimes people look at you and think, ‘What are you doing about it?’ I am doing something about it. I’m being patient. Being patient is doing something about it. So with a guy like him and a lot of our young players, patience is a really, really important attribute.”
Helly’s return later than sooner
RHP Jeremy Hellickson (elbow surgery) will throw his third bullpen session Sunday, stretching out to 30 pitches.
He will likely throw three more bullpens before beginning his minor-league rehab assignment. Because he hasn’t pitched this season, the rehab assignment will act as spring training, meaning Hellickson will gradually build up to throwing 100 pitches with one start every fifth day.
Originally expected to rejoin the rotation in early June, Hellickson is now expected to return in late June.
More injury news
LHP Matt Moore (Tommy John surgery) is performing range-of-motion exercises and working to build his shoulder strength. He’s wearing a mobility brace on his left elbow to restrict the motion as he regains the mobility.
RHP Alex Cobb (strained left oblique) will throw a 30-pitch bullpen today. He is expected to return in early June.
On Thursday, the Rays became the first team since the 1995 Pirates to win a doubleheader despite walking at least 17 batters, the first team to sweep a doubleheader despite not having either starter pitch five innings since the ’04 Red Sox and the first team since the 1935 White Sox to come-from-behind for a pair of one-run victories while sweeping the Red Sox at Fenway Park. ... Despite Monday’s off day, Maddon said he expects the rotation to remain in its current order. ... The Rays get their first look today at Yankees RHP Masahiro Tanaka. Maddon said he will reserve judgment until after he sees Tanaka pitch. But he is already impressed with Tanaka. “Anybody who comes on a 787 from Japan to New York City, him and his dog and his wife and I hear two friends, that’s pretty impressive,” Maddon said.