It has been a rocky few days for Grant Balfour. After successfully and surprisingly saving the first five games he entered in 1012, it has been anything but easy since then. In his last four appearances, Balfour has been rocked for six runs and two blown saves. In the last save opportunity for the Athletics, Brain Fuentes entered the game instead of the overworked Balfour. While I don’t believe that Balfour has been replaced, but only rested, it is still cause for concern.
Balfour is not closer material. While he has solid stuff, good fastball, slider and OK curveball, Balfour doesn’t have the mindset to be a closer. Balfour is often rattled on the mound and can get wild once his emotions take over. His BB/9 of 3.38 is evidence of that this year. In order to be an effective closer, you have to understand game situations and play to that. Instead, Balfour plays to his own emotions and not the game itself. That is why his career has been plagued with high walk rates and massive inconsistency.
The Athletics have a solid bullpen with Ryan Cook as the setup man followed by Brain Fuentes and now AAA player Fautino De Los Santos. If Grant Balfour were to lose the job it would go to one of those three pitchers. I don’t believe it would be Brain Fuentes. Granted Manager Bob Melvin would like to keep Ryan Cook as the setup man, he seems to be the best option at closer. Fautino De Los Santos wasn’t being used much, so he was sent to AAA, but in three innings of work he posted a 3.00 ERA and 3 Ks. I don’t believe that the Athletics would bring Fautino De Los Santos back to majors just to be closer.
While it’s hard to pick the brain of Bob Melvin and Billy Beane, we can say this. They have no problem using a rookie at closer. Balfour will be given one or two more chances to close games. If he isn’t successful, a change will be made. My money is on Ryan Cook. I just don’t see Brain Fuentes getting the call. If the Athletics wanted Fuentes as the closer, he would have gotten the job in spring training. Still, a may be wise to pick up Fuentes or Cook until Balfour can prove again that he can close out games for the Oakland Athletics.