July 20, 2011; Detroit, MI, USA; Oakland Athletics relief pitcher Grant Balfour (50) pitches during the eighth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

Closing Time: A's Name Grant Balfour Closer

While questions still remain about their first base and third base situations, the Oakland A’s have seemingly addressed one crucial position this spring: the closer’s role. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the A’s have named Grant Balfour their closer and Brian Fuentes, the runner-up to Balfour in the closer race, as the team’s set-up guy. Both Balfour and Fuentes made their Oakland debuts last season, but Balfour performed exceedingly better than Fuentes in Oakland’s bullpen.

Fuentes may have several All-Star appearances and a total of 199 saves to his name, but the A’s are still going with Balfour this season. Fuentes didn’t enjoy much success in his first year in green-and-gold, but Balfour did. Fuentes posted a 3.70 ERA (4.16 FIP) in 58.1 innings of work last year. Opponents hit .237 off Fuentes, while Balfour held his opponents to a .199 batting clip.

Moreover, Balfour put up solid numbers last year in Oakland’s bullpen. The former Tampa Bay Ray, Balfour went 5-2 with a 2.47 ERA (3.77 FIP) in 62.0 innings of work. He recorded a 8.59 SO/9 rate compared to Fuentes’ 6.48 SO/9 rate last year, too. He was a bit lucky, though, as he stranded 89% of his runners and posted a .232 BABIP.

Still, the A’s are making the right decision by naming Balfour the team’s closer this year. By Moving Fuentes to the set-up role, as Ben Duronio of RotoGraphs.com suggests, the A’s are essentially making Fuentes a more valuable member of their bullpen. He’ll be more of a situational pitcher now that Balfour is assuming the closer’s role.

Overall, the Athletics will probably roll out with a bullpen that includes the likes of Balfour, Fuentes, Fautino De Los Santos, Jerry Blevins, Andrew Carignan, Ryan Cook, and Jordan Norberto. The A’s also have pitchers Travis Schlichting and Evan Scribner included in the bullpen plans for the Opening Series in Japan.

Having pitched in the highly competitive AL East for a few years, Balfour should find the role of closer pretty easy to handle. In the meantime, Fuentes will just have to wait until he gets another shot at closing out games for the A’s.

What do you think? Should the A’s have named Fuentes their closer or are you happy with the Balfour decision? Sound off below in the comments!

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