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Reds sign Balfour, still recovering from elbow surgery

CINCINNATI -- Right-hander Grant Balfour agreed to a
one-year, $340,000 contract Thursday with the Cincinnati Reds, who
decided to take a calculated risk on a pitcher still recovering
from reconstructive elbow surgery.

To open a spot on their 40-man roster, the Reds designed
right-hander Josh Hancock for assignment to the minors. They have
10 days to trade Hancock, release him or place him on waivers.

The 28-year-old Balfour pitched parts of three seasons for
Minnesota. In his only full season in the majors, he went 4-1 with
a 4.35 ERA in 2004, making 36 relief appearances for the Twins.

He went on the disabled list twice that season with shoulder
tendinitis, and developed pain in his elbow. Dr. Timothy Kremchek,
who works with the Reds, performed ligament replacement surgery on
Balfour's elbow last April.

Minnesota decided not to offer him a contract last month, making
him a free agent.

"He was originally operated on by Dr. Kremchek, so we have a
pretty good idea here of what's involved," Reds general manager
Dan O'Brien said. "He's currently in rehab. He will be reporting
to major league camp, but will not be physically able to compete
for a job in spring training. If everything goes as planned, he
could likely return about midseason."

Cincinnati has spent the offseason trying to upgrade a pitching
staff that finished last in the National League.

Hancock was trying for a spot in the bullpen last spring
training when he suffered a groin injury that lingered. He went 1-0
with a 1.93 ERA in 14 appearances at the end of the season.

Also Thursday, the Reds signed infielder Frank Menechino and
catchers Ryan Hanigan and Steve Torrealba to minor league contracts
and invited them to spring training.