Grant Balfour faces live hitters for first time since surgery

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From Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle comes word that A’s right-hander Grant Balfour faced live hitters on Tuesday for the first time since undergoing right knee surgery on February 14.

Balfour will probably face hitters in A’s camp another three or four times before being cleared to make his Cactus League debut. Relief pitchers usually only need a handful of spring training appearances to get properly tuned up for the season, so he should be fine for Opening Day if he can avoid setbacks.

Balfour registered a fantastic 2.53 ERA and 0.92 WHIP in 75 appearances with the A’s last season, striking out 72 batters in 74 2/3 innings.

The fiery 35-year-old will serve as Oakland’s closer this summer if he is healthy.

Jose Altuve and Corey Kluber head list of Esurance MLB Award winners

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The 2017 MLB award season officially drew to a close on Friday with the Esurance MLB Awards, handed out to the best hitters, pitchers, front office members and moments in the 2017 season. Jose Altuve was crowned the Best Major Leaguer overall, beating out fellow finalists Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge, while two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber took home honors as Best Pitcher.

Here’s the full list of winners:

  • Best Rookie: Aaron Judge
  • Best Defensive Player: Nolan Arenado
  • Personality of the Year: Adrian Beltre
  • Best Postseason Major Leaguer: Jose Altuve and Justin Verlander
  • Best Postseason Moment: Alex Bregman‘s 10th inning walk-off single in Game 5 of the World Series (video)
  • Best TV/Radio Call: Joe Buck and John Smoltz call Jose Altuve’s game-tying three-run blast in Game 5 of the World Series (video)
  • Best Play (Offense): Nolan Arenado completes the cycle with a walk-off homer (video)
  • Best Play (Defense): Austin Jackson‘s over-the-wall catch in the Red Sox’ bullpen (video)
  • Best Single-Game Performance: Anthony Rendon‘s six-hit, three-homer, 10-RBI game (video)
  • Best Player-Fan Interaction: Joey Votto gives Walter “Superbubz” Herbert a bat and jersey (video)
  • Best Fan Catch: Fan’s brother-in-law grabs Yasiel Puig home run ball and chucks it back on the field (video)
  • Best Manager: A.J. Hinch
  • Best Executive: Jeff Luhnow

No surprises here — the world champion Astros ran away with seven awards, including those for Best Manger and Executive and a dual award for Best Major Leaguer of the Postseason. Altuve added to an impressive run this offseason after earning a Silver Slugger, two Players Choice Awards, Hank Aaron Award and MVP Award for his outstanding work in 2017, while Yankees’ slugger Aaron Judge continued to be a lock for all AL rookie-based awards after locking down the Rookie of the Year title earlier this week.