Rays get reliever Qualls

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Rays acquired reliever Chad Qualls Saturday, but came up short in other efforts to bolster the roster before baseball's trade deadline.

Without providing specifics, executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said the club "set our sights high" in exploring ways to strengthen the chances of making the playoffs. He said he remains confident the Rays have enough talent currently on hand and in the minor leagues to remain in contention.

"We had a specific group of players that we felt like would really impact us that we felt like we'd be aggressive" in pursuing, Friedman said. "At the end of the day, there wasn't a lot of activity on that front."

Qualls was obtained for a player to be named. The 31-year-old right-hander is 1-4 with 12 saves and an 8.29 ERA this season, striking out 34 and walking 15 in 38 innings, down from a career-high 24 saves last year.

The Rays feel he's a lot better than the numbers.

And, Qualls fills a need with right-hander Grant Balfour going on the 15-day disabled list with a ribcage strain. Balfour's injury was the result of what manager Joe Maddon described as horseplay between the reliever and pitching coach Jim Hickey.

"It was just kind of a freaky thing, just messing around. Pitching coach and a pitcher that know each other well. ... Something guys do almost everyday and nothing ever happens," Maddon said. "It's just a freaky, goofy thing. It's really unfortunate."

Balfour, who could be sidelined four to six weeks, is 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 43 1-3 innings.

"There's not a whole lot to explain," Maddon said, adding that the incident occurred before batting practice at Tropicana Field on Friday. "It was a weird, freaky thing. It just happened,. It stinks. We did what we had to do to try to counteract it, and that's get Qualls."

The Rays entered Saturday night's game against the New York Yankees with the second best record in baseball, one game behind the defending world champions in the AL East.

The Yankees made three key additions prior to the trade deadline, acquiring Lance Berkman, Austin Kearns and right-handed reliever Kerry Wood.

The Rays insisted they weren't concerned about how much the Yankees might have helped themselves for the stretch run.

"It's not unexpected. ... It's nice that they considered us enough of a threat to do all that," owner Stuart Sternberg said. "I wonder what would have been if they were 12 games up."

Maddon said he doesn't know much about Qualls, but likes the little he's heard about the right-hander.

"I know if you look at his numbers, they're not that good. ... But his stuff is really good," Maddon said. "He's done a lot of really good work in the past. ... I know he's coming off some type of knee injury that had an impact this season. I'm hoping we're getting him at the right time."

The manager also said he wasn't concerned about the Rays not bringing in a hitter to bolster the offense.

"We had a lot of good ideas, it just did not happen. I like our guys who are here. I like the guys who are in the minor leagues that could come up and help us at some point," Maddon said.

"It's cool to make acquisitions, but if you don't get it done and you have a good team like we do, I'm really not going to lament that situation a long time."