Grant Balfour returns to game action after knee surgery

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Grant Balfour is five weeks into a 4-6 week recovery timetable for knee surgery and the A’s closer saw game action yesterday for the first time, throwing an inning against minor leaguers.

Jane Lee of MLB.com reports that Balfour is slated to make his official spring training debut Thursday, so barring any setbacks it sounds like he should be ready for Opening Day.

Balfour stepped into the closer role for the first time at age 35 and saved 24 games with a 2.53 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 75 innings, but had knee problems late in the season and had to shut things down after trying to throw early in camp last month.

Padres sign Aaron Loup to a one-year deal

Aaron Loup
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Free agent lefty reliever Aaron Loup has been given a locker in the Padres’ clubhouse, AJ Cassavell of MLB.com reported Sunday. Per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, Loup received a one-year MLB deal with a club option for 2020. The Padres will shift right-hander Garrett Richards to the 60-day injured list to make room on the 40-man roster.

Loup, 31, began the 2018 season with the Blue Jays and was traded to the Phillies for minor league right-hander Jacob Waguespack at the midseason deadline. The veteran left-hander pitched just two innings in Philadelphia before hitting the injured list with a forearm strain and returned for a handful of appearances at the end of the year, bringing him up to a 4.54 ERA, 3.2 BB/9, 10.0 SO/9, and 0.3 fWAR across 39 2/3 combined innings.

Assuming health issues don’t complicate his next campaign in San Diego, Loup will be added to the bullpen alongside fellow left-handers Matt Strahm and José Castillo (with the possible late addition of southpaw reliever Brad Wieck, who underwent surgery for testicular cancer earlier this year). There are worse places to be — according to FanGraphs, the Padres’ ‘pen jumped from second-worst in 2017 to second-best in the league with a cumulative 3.53 ERA, 3.31 FIP, and 8.7 fWAR in 2018.