06/08/08 4:53 PM ET
Percival's return to bring tough choice
Closer coming back Friday; Rays must decide who will go
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
"When we get Percival back, we'll be at full strength," reliever Trever Miller said. "That move they make is going to be a difficult one. ... Whoever it is, it's not going to be because he pitched poorly."
For the season, Rays relievers are 11-7 with 18 saves and a 3.48 ERA. Entering Sunday's finale with the Rangers, the bullpen is 3-3 with one save and a 4.85 ERA this month.
When Percival went down with a left hamstring strain on May 29, Grant Balfour was recalled from Triple-A Durham and has pitched in four of the nine games since he arrived, going 0-0 with a 3.86 ERA and one save.
Prior to Balfour's arrival, he had been lights-out for the Bulls, going 1-0 with eight saves in eight opportunities. Trouble is, Balfour is out of options, so if he becomes the odd man out he would have to clear waivers for the Rays to retain his services.
"I've got no idea [what the Rays are going to do]," Balfour said. "If it's up to me, I'm staying. ... I haven't thought about it, to be honest. Actually, I have once or twice. But I haven't really worried about it.
"It's a waste of time to worry about. I've got no say-so. They're going to do what they're going to do. If they want to keep me here, they're going to try and maneuver me around to keep me here. If they don't want to, they're going to let me go, I guess. I really want to be here. But I have no control over it. I just have to go out there and pitch well and make the decision hard for them."
Balfour said he "couldn't have done any more at Durham."
"And since I've come up here, I feel like I've thrown the ball pretty well, too," Balfour said. "Feel like I've done, hopefully enough, for them to want to keep me."
Rays manager Joe Maddon agreed a difficult decision awaits.
"We're just going to wait for that moment [when Percival returns] and make a decision," Maddon said. "Grant has pitched well. He came up here on a hot streak, he's had a great attitude and he's really helped us."
As for Percival, Maddon said the Rays closer is "on target that he will be ready to participate" on Friday. Percival will throw a simulated inning at some point on Monday or Tuesday in Anaheim.
"He's going to be fine," Maddon said. "This is one guy who can throw a strike even if he hasn't been pitching. So I'm not worried about his command. ... He's always been able to maintain command. He's unusual in that regard. So as long as he's healthy -- and he told me the other day that his arm felt great and his leg felt great -- I believe him. So we'll just get him out there that one time and he'll be fine."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.