A couple of weeks ago we took a look at the toll of the 2008 season on the Rays’ pitching staff. The Rays have already tightened the reigns on the pitchers this off-season, several of whom will have delayed 2009 debuts in spring training.
One event that could derail the Rays plans is participation in the 2009 World Baseball Classic by members of the pitching staff. The WBC is to be held during spring training (March 5-23).
After one of the most dominating seasons ever for a relief pitcher, Grant Balfour is arbitration-eligible for the first time and will use his participation in the WBC as leverage during contract negotiations.
“I have no idea if I’m going to play or not,” Balfour said. “I’m going to see what the Rays come up with as far as a contract and see what they think.”
In other words, Balfour might be willing to forgo a spot on the Australian team if the Rays offer the right amount of cash.
Balfour is one of the pitchers who showed a significant increase in innings pitched (32.6%) from 2007 to 2008. A sharp increase in workload from one season to the next is a cause for concern moving forward.
If Balfour joins the Australian team, not only will he have to begin preparations earlier than would normally be expected, but he will also be giving max-effort during the WBC with little opportunity for tune-ups in the spring. That, along with the increased workload in 2008 and the shortened off-season could lead to a tired arm in 2009 or even injury.
This has to be very concerning to the Rays who will need a repeat performance from Balfour in 2009 if the team expects to make another run at a postseason berth.
Look At Toll Of 2008 On Rays Pitching Staff; Garza Could Take Step Back In ’09 [Rays Index]
Tampa Bay Rays plan extra rest for pitchers after long season [St. Pete Times]
Grant Balfour One Of Most Dominating Relievers In History Of Baseball [Rays Index]
Australians out to surprise in Classic [MLB]