HOU@TB: Hanigan crossed up on Singleton strikeout

ST. PETERSBURG -- Deposed closer Grant Balfour pitched the ninth inning of the Rays' 5-0 win over the Astros on Thursday night.

Balfour struck out the side on 13 pitches, drawing praise from Rays manager Joe Maddon.

"Yesterday was the best he's thrown all year, period," Maddon said. "Stuff-wise, aggressiveness, useage -- about how he uses all of his pitches, the best I've seen all year. I thought it was pretty impressive."

Maddon also liked that Balfour showed his chippy side during the stint.

"He's the kind of guy ... if he's on your team, you love him," Maddon said. "If you're on the other team, you're going to get upset with him. That's the way it's always been; that's the way it's always going to be. But I'd rather he be that way because I think he pitches better a little bit angry."

If, or when, Balfour reclaims the closer role, Maddon believes it will "be organic."

"It's just going to happen," Maddon said. "We just keep throwing him out there, and as he keeps pilling up those good moments. If he just follows his lead from yesterday, he's going to be OK very quickly."

Hellickson's future unclear beyond fourth rehab start

Jeremy Hellickson allowed three earned runs in his previous rehab start.

ST. PETERSBURG -- Jeremy Hellickson will make his fourth rehab start Sunday in Durham for the Triple-A Bulls.

The right-hander is scheduled to throw six innings or 90 pitches. And if that goes well...

"That goes well," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "There's nothing beyond that right now. We'll play that out and see how it goes."

Hellickson, who is in the home stretch from January right elbow surgery, made his third rehab start Tuesday while pitching for Triple-A Durham at Louisville (Reds). He allowed seven runs (three earned) on 12 hits in 2 2/3 innings.

"I'm ready to get some guys out," said Hellickson, who will fly to Durham on Saturday.

Following Guyer's lead, Longo pens guest blog

BAL@TB: Longoria shows off his arm to get the out

ST. PETERSBURG -- Former Rays outfielder Gabe Kapler writes a lifestyle and fitness blog, and he occasionally uses guest bloggers.

Current Rays outfielder Brandon Guyer penned a guest blog earlier in the season, and now Evan Longoria has joined the party.

"He had asked me a month ago if I would write something for his blog," Longoria said. "And I asked him what he wanted me to write. He said, 'Whatever you want. If you want to write about food. If you want to write about sports. If you want to write about fantasy football, anything.'"

Longoria opted to write one titled, "The Changing Face of Youth Baseball," a subject to which he has give a lot of thought lately.

Longoria and Kapler became friends when Kapler played for the Rays in 2009 and 2010.

"He's a really smart guy," Longoria said. "I think anybody who has ever been around him -- he brings a very interesting element to the clubhouse. He's a father, a foodie, a great baseball player, he's been a manager. He's done a ton of different things during his career. We've remained friends."

Kapler is well above average where fitness is concerned. Longoria smiled when asked if "Kap" was the fittest guy he had ever been around in a clubhouse.

"Yeah, and probably works at it the hardest, too," Longoria said. "I think you have to enjoy that kind of thing, and he does. Working out, whatever it is, he takes his two boys with him, he enjoys eating well. He used to bring his own stuff to the field. He's an incredible guy, man."