MINNEAPOLIS -- Rays reliever Grant Balfour has not let last season's success go to his head.
After earning a save in his first outing of the season, he allowed three earned runs on three walks and two hits while getting no outs in an April 12 loss at Baltimore.
In the ensuing two weeks, the right-hander has had six solid outings, allowing just three hits in 4 1/3 innings while striking out four.
"I learned from it," Balfour said before Monday's game in Minnesota. "I just had to come out and change a few things, and look at some video where last year I was doing 'this,' and this year I'm doing 'this.' I noticed a couple of things in my delivery. Sometimes you just have to step back and not force things."
Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said he's talked to Balfour about not putting so much pressure on himself or trying too hard. But he has another theory not just about Balfour, but the pitching staff as a whole.
"I think a lot of pitchers, it's getting their feet back on the ground after such a long season," Maddon said. "It's really important that we've taken it really slow with them all through Spring Training and up until now. I think they're finally getting their feet on the ground to where they feel a lot more comfortable."
Balfour admits he was more prepared for Spring Training in 2008, and his velocity was up and his pitches were sharper than they were two months ago.
It showed in the regular season, when he went 6-2 with a 1.54 ERA, four saves and 82 strikeouts over 58 1/3 innings in '08. He signed a one-year, $1.4 million deal in the offseason, a $500,000 raise from last year.
"It's almost like I wish last year just could have kept going and not stop," Balfour added. "You get to a point where you get so locked in and you feel so comfortable that everything seems to fall into place. ... I'm starting to get that feeling back to where I was last year."
Mike Cook is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.