Justin Morneau’s long-awaited return to the lineup after sitting out the past eight months with a concussion is the biggest news in Twins camp this week, but Minnesota also has another elite player coming back from an even longer absence in closer Joe Nathan.
Right around this time last year Nathan left his first spring training appearance with elbow pain and eventually underwent Tommy John surgery, missing the entire season. He’s returned to the mound with three scoreless appearances so far this spring, and more importantly his command has been good and his fastball has been clocked in the low-90s even as he builds up arm strength.
Here’s what Nathan told Kelly Thesier of MLB.com after his outing Monday:
The command has really been a pleasant surprise to this point, and I can’t ask for much more than what’s gone on out there now as far as life on the ball, movement on the ball, sharpness and stuff. Just keep moving forward and keep trying to improve and build arm strength, and I’ll be ready for April 1. I’m happy, very happy with how things feel right now.
Minnesota lost four key pitchers from last season’s bullpen to free agency, but Nathan returning as something resembling his old self would go a long way toward solidifying the relief corps. In his first six seasons as Twins closer Nathan racked up 246 saves with a 1.87 ERA, both of which topped Mariano Rivera for the best marks in baseball during that time.
The Yankees just released a statement saying that Yankee Stadium will be undergoing “enhancements” this offseason. The enhancements include:
- The Sunrun Kids Clubhouse, which is basically one of those “kids run around and climb on crap play areas” not unlike those you see in the middle of shopping malls. Except, of course, it’s baseball-themed. Parents of little ones will likely appreciate that. People without kids will likely watch from afar, horrified, and will check their bags for hand sanitizer before getting anywhere near it. As someone who has been on both sides of that interaction, it’s all good. It’s how it should be for all involved;
- The MasterCard Batter’s Eye Deck which is, not surprisingly, an outdoor gathering space/bar in center field near the batter’s eye;
- Bullpen landings which are gathering spaces/bars near the bullpens;
- The AT&T Sports Lounge at Section 134 on the Field Level. It’s a bar with big screen TVs showing the game that is going on just outside the bar; and
- Budweiser Party Decks at Sections 311 and 328. Which are hopefully explanatory.
Artist’s renderings here.
The park will lose around 2,000 seats to make space for these additions, but will likely make up for that and then some with added revenue from all of the Yankees fans partying on. In decks.
No surprise here: the Cubs have just named Jon Lester their Game 1 World Series starter.
Lester has allowed two earned runs in 21 innings over three starts this postseason and was the co-MVP in the NLCS. Lester will face off against Indians ace Corey Kluber.
On the season Lester went 19-5 with a 2.44 ERA and notched 197 Ks against 52 walks in 202.2 innings.