Rays sign reliever Grant Balfour to a minor league deal

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Following a disastrous outing against the Yankees on April 18, reliever Grant Balfour was designated for assignment by the Rays. He was granted his release several days ago, as the Rays chose to eat his $7 million salary for the 2015 season.

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, however, reports that the Rays have signed the 37-year-old Balfour again, this time to a minor league deal. He is expected to report to Triple-A Durham.

Over the last two seasons, Balfour’s fastball velocity declined precipitously, going from 93.4 MPH on average in 2013 to 91.6 MPH last season and 89.4 MPH in a handful of innings to begin the 2015 campaign. He finished with a 4.91 ERA and a 57/41 K/BB ratio in 62 1/3 innings last year.

Video: Cubs score run on Pirates’ appeal throw

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2019 has been one long nightmare for the Pirates. They’re in last place in the NL Central, have had multiple clubhouse fights, and can’t stop getting into bench-clearing incidents. The embarrassment continued on Sunday as the club lost 16-6 to the Cubs, suffering a three-game series sweep in Chicago.

One of those 16 runs the Pirates allowed was particularly noteworthy. In the bottom of the third inning, with the game tied at 5-5, the Cubs had runners on first and second with two outs. Tony Kemp hit a triple to right field, allowing both Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward to score to make it 7-5. The Pirates thought one of the Cubs’ base runners didn’t touch third base on their way home. Reliever Michael Feliz attempted to make an appeal throw to third base, but it was way too high for Erik González to catch, so Kemp scored easily on the error.

The Pirates lost Friday’s game to the Cubs 17-8 and Saturday’s game 14-1. They were outscored 47-15 in the three-game series. According to Baseball Reference, since 1908, the Pirates never allowed 14+ runs in three consecutive games and only did it two games in a row twice before this series, in 1949 and in 1950. The Cubs scored 14+ in three consecutive games just one other time, in 1930.