GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Grant Balfour stepped onto the mound for the first time in Cactus League action this season. After right knee surgery, that is a giant step, as he hopes to be back in time for Opening Day.
The Australian-born reliever retired the Reds in order on nine pitches in the sixth inning. Notably, he struck out Derrick Robinson looking and retired Emmanuel Burriss with just one pitch. He topped out at 94 MPH.
"That's a good sign for the first time out in spring," Balfour said. "If I can have days like that it's going to be a good year."
It looks like the knee concerns are a thing of the past. The closer spoke in the clubhouse with ice packs on his right shoulder and knee, but said it's a normal part of taking care of his body.
"I don't worry about it," Balfour said. "I don't feel anything in there, it feels great. I'm out there just focusing on pitching and making pitches."
With 11 days remaining until the first game of the regular season, Balfour can now focus on getting his arm ready. While there's never a positive aspect to going under the knife, his arm will be extra fresh after throwing a career-high 74 2/3 innings last season.
Balfour's only other outing this spring came in a minor league game. For him, stepping on the mound with the crowd watching made a big difference.
"The minor league game for me, no disrespect, is a waste of time. I'm just going through the motions," Balfour said. "Here I can get some adrenaline going, I'll do my routine, I'm coming out of the bullpen and not starting a game."
"I need that. I need the crowd. I want the adrenaline going," he added.
Balfour, 35, clearly feeds off the energy at the ballpark. When the Oakland Coliseum was packed down the stretch, he retired the final 26 batters he faced in the regular season -- the fifth longest streak in Oakland history. He did so while experiencing mild pain his right knee.
That pain is now gone.
Balfour is a major piece of the A's puzzle. He saved a team-high 24 games with a 2.53 ERA and also led the A's with 75 appearances last season.