Joe Nathan’s comeback from Tommy John elbow surgery appears to be going well, as the Twins closer threw off a mound outdoors today for the first time since missing all of last season and pitching coach Rick Anderson called the session “outstanding.”
Nathan arrived at spring training ahead of schedule and was reportedly clocked in the high-80s right away, and according to Anderson he was throwing “smooth” and “easy” today.
He still has some hurdles to get over and Nathan averaged 93.6 miles per hour with his fastball in 2009, but the early results are very encouraging for a Twins team that desperately needs him to return at something resembling his old self to stabilize a bullpen that lost more than half of its innings from last year to free agency.
Prior to the injury Nathan saved 246 games with a 1.87 ERA in six seasons as the Twins’ closer, narrowly besting Mariano Rivera for the most saves and lowest ERA in baseball during that time.
MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports that the Orioles have interest in free agent right-hander Alex Cobb, who rejected his one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Rays earlier this week. Cobb was most recently linked to the Cubs, who reportedly reached out to his agent during the GM Meetings and garnered mutual interest from the righty, but nothing appears to be set in stone yet.
Cobb, 30, completed his sixth season with the Rays in 2017. He went 12-10 in 29 starts and turned in a respectable 3.66 ERA, 6.4 SO/9 and career-best 2.2 BB/9 in 179 1/3 innings. Despite losing a couple of weeks to turf toe, he remained healthy for most of the year and showed no signs of the elbow issues that robbed him of the majority of his 2015-2016 campaigns.
It’s still fairly early for any deals to come to fruition, but Morosi notes that the Orioles seem to be focused on bulking up their rotation during the first few months of the offseason. It’ll take more than a healthy Alex Cobb to right that ship, however: Orioles’ starters earned a collective 5.70 ERA and 5.5 fWAR in 2017, good for worst and fourth-worst marks in the league, respectively. Behind Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy (and perhaps Gabriel Ynoa/Miguel Castro), they still need three viable starters to compete in 2018. Whether or not they can afford to spring for a single starter with Cobb’s price tag (four years, $48 million, per MLB Trade Rumors) remains to be seen.