Balfour remains on track for Opening Day

Balfour remains on track for Opening Day
March 18, 2013, 10:45 am
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In two seasons with the A's, Grant Balfour has a 2.50 ERA in 137 appearances. (USA Today Images)

The Oakland Athletics remain optimistic that Grant Balfour will be ready for Opening Day. He is expected to pitch the first inning in a minor league game on Monday. A's manager Bob Melvin told reporters that his injured closer could get five spring training appearances before the season if all goes according to plan.

Balfour, 35, underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee on February 14. He has been speeding along in his rehab process. Balfour threw from a mound 15 days after the surgery and has passed all of his medical tests.

Balfour first started feeling the pain in his right knee late last season and pitched through the pain. He didn't think it was much of an issue as he retired the last 26 consecutive batters he faced in 2012 -- the fifth longest streak in Oakland history.

The Australian native is one of the key pieces in the A's plans to contend in 2013. He saved a team-high 24 games last season, and had a 2.53 ERA in 75 appearances.