Oakland has exercised its 2013 option on Grant Balfour, bringing the right-hander back for $4.5 million after he emerged as the team’s closer this season, but the A’s have declined their half of Stephen Drew’s mutual option for $10 million.
That makes Drew a free agent, although it’s possible the A’s could try to re-sign him in what is a pretty weak year for available shortstops. Drew hit .250 with five homers and a .707 OPS in 39 games for the A’s after struggling for the Diamondbacks. He gets a $1.35 million buyout.
Balfour had never saved more than four games in a season previously, but emerged as the A’s closer at age 34 and converted 24 saves with a 2.53 ERA in 75 innings. Combined during the past five seasons Balfour has a 2.78 ERA in 318 innings, striking out 9.6 batters per nine frames while holding opponents to a .191 batting average.
Clayton Kershaw had nothing left to prove when he exited the mound during his last Cactus League start on Friday. He finished camp with a 0.00 ERA, made all the more impressive after he extended his scoreless streak to 21 1/3 innings following 6 2/3 frames of one-hit ball against the Royals.
In six spring training starts this year, the Dodgers southpaw racked up 12 hits, four walks and 23 strikeouts. His velocity appeared to fluctuate between the high-80s and low-90s from start to start, but manager Dave Roberts told reporters that he expects Kershaw to get back up to the 93 m.p.h. range next week. Kershaw is tabbed for his eighth consecutive Opening Day start on Thursday.
The 30-year-old lefty is poised to enter his 11th season with the club in 2018. He went 18-4 in 27 starts last year and turned in a 2.31 ERA, 1.5 BB/9 and 10.4 SO/9 over 175 innings. He suffered his fair share of bumps and bruises along the way, including a lower back strain that required a five-week stay on the disabled list.
The Dodgers will open their season against the Giants on Thursday, March 29 at 7:08 PM ET. Given the sudden rash of injuries that hit the Giants’ rotation earlier today, Kershaw’s Opening Day opponent has not yet been announced.