Oakland Athletics closer took a big step Tuesday towards being ready for Opening Day, facing batters for the first time since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in mid-February, reports Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.
Balfour had an operation to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee on February 14, and was expected to be sidelined for at least four to six weeks. The right-hander entered camp expecting his knee to be fine, but immediately opted for an operation when that turned out not to be the case.
Knee injuries seem to have a way of lingering -- see: Gamel, Mat -- but Balfour has yet to be hit by any kind of setbacks. In fact, the 35-year-old has been ahead of schedule in his recovery from the get-go, and is looking to take the hill for the A's much earlier than expected.
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The Australian right-hander threw his first bullpen session well over a week ago, and could see his first Spring Training action very soon.
Balfour has been a huge asset in the Oakland bullpen the last two seasons -- posting a 2.50 ERA and 8.6 K/9 rate in 136⅔ innings for the A's. The fierce right-hander took over closer duties in 2012 and racked up 24 saves as the Athletics surprised their way to the AL West title.