07/25/10 2:02 PM ET
Balfour's success comes from fastball
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
When Balfour arrived for good with the Rays in 2008, his heaters would touch 97 mph, a fact pitching coach Jim Hickey attributed to Balfour having his mechanics in perfect order.
Balfour went 6-2 with a 1.54 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 58 1/3 innings in 2008, while walking just 24. He experienced a lull in '09 that saw him go 5-4 with a 4.81 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 67 1/3 innings, with 33 walks.
The Aussie native is doing well this season, posting an 0-1 record with a 2.20 ERA, while striking out 41 in 41 innings and walking just 11 entering Sunday.
Most times when Balfour enters a game, his fastball can be expected to be at 93 or 94 mph. Shortly before the All-Star break his pitches were cutting the strike zone at 90-to-91 mph, which begged the question: How does a fastball pitcher adjust to not having his fastball?
"I might want to use the breaking ball a little more in a fastball count," Balfour said. "I mean, I'm still going to pitch to my strengths. On days when I don't feel like I've got as good of a fastball as normal, I'll try to finish him off with a breaking ball, something like that. Probably just use my breaking ball a little bit more."
Balfour got some good rest during the All-Star break and saw his velocity get back to normal at the beginning of the second half.
"It feels good to come out and have some good late life on it. It's always a plus," Balfour said.
Balfour will usually take a peek at the scoreboard to check his velocity.
"I'll look up some days just to see a couple and see where I'm at to see how I feel," Balfour said. "Usually you can tell anyway. Some days you can feel it. Some days you don't feel good and you're actually better than you think."
No matter how Balfour is equipped on any given day, he's not about to panic, because there are some things more important than having your top velocity.
"I like to have it there, definitely," Balfour said. "I use my fastball a lot, so I like to have it there, have some good velocity on that. So it's definitely nice to have. Obviously you still have to be hitting spots, because as you know in this league, you throw 98 mph down the middle, they're going to hit it."
Maddon: Herzog was a shrewd evaluator
CLEVELAND -- Whitey Herzog was among the group slated to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday. Rays manager Joe Maddon knows Herzog from Herzog's days as the Angels' general manager while Maddon served as the organization's Minor League field coordinator and hitting instructor.
"I'm really happy for him," Maddon said. "I used to really enjoy the conversations with him, just talking about the game. I'd even take it a step beyond that, in the '80s watching the Cardinals play and even the Royals, and how he did things [when he managed those teams]. The aggressive nature of the teams, the speed and the defense aspect, the bullpen, all those things kind of never go away. That style of play can always be successful."
Aside from admiring the work Herzog did, Maddon called the most intriguing part of Herzog the fact that he was "really bright."
"He breaks things down and he always presented things in a way you hadn't heard before," Maddon said. "And on top of that, he's extremely funny. The guy's hysterical. The guy's got all these wonderful qualities. And the one thing I thought he did for the Angels' organization that I really thought had not been done to that point, he was the best evaluator of young talent up until that point in that system."
Joyce back in outfield after time at DH
CLEVELAND -- Rays manager Joe Maddon has often noted how difficult it is for a young player to be used as a designated hitter because of the idle time between at-bats. Matt Joyce has made eight of his 20 starts at DH this season, but Maddon would like to have him play the outfield more often.
Joyce started in right field in Sunday's series finale against the Indians.
Joyce, serving as the designated hitter, doubled and scored in the sixth inning of Saturday night's 6-3 win over the Indians to move his batting average to .220.
"When you've had a bad at-bat, it's a much more grinding 25 or 30 minutes," Maddon said. "So when you're that young, I think it's a little more difficult to channel all that and understand how to work through those moments."
Homestand to feature plenty of festivities
CLEVELAND -- The Rays open their longest homestand of the season Monday night at Tropicana Field against the Tigers.
Several highlights of the coming days and nights at home will include Hispanic Heritage Night on Friday night, when Grammy Award-winning Los Lobos will perform a postgame concert. That same night, the first 10,000 fans in attendance will receive a Los Rays collectible T-shirt presented by the St. Petersburg Times. The night will also feature salsa lessons for fans and specials on food and drinks.
On Saturday, the Rays will celebrate African-American Heritage Night, which will feature an autograph session with former Negro League players Cliff Brown, Paul Casanova, Walter Gibbons, Leon Harris, Raydell Maddix, Enrique Maroto, Bob Mitchell and Willie Williams.
On Aug. 1, the first 10,000 kids ages 14 and under will receive a Jeff Niemann Growth Chart presented by Grow Financial Federal Credit Union. That same day, the first 10,000 fans will receive a Jeff Niemann collectible poster presented by the St. Petersburg Times.
On July 29 and Aug. 5, all kids in attendance will receive Cheer Sticks presented by Busch Gardens/SeaWorld.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.