Joe Nathan reclaims closer job despite 11.05 spring ERA

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In addition to the Twins setting their 25-man roster yesterday manager Ron Gardenhire also made it all but official that Joe Nathan will reclaim his closer job after sitting out last season following Tommy John elbow surgery.

Here’s what Gardenhire said during a radio interview on 1500-ESPN:

I would imagine we’ll start out probably something like that. We like what he’s doing. I think the big thing is to see how he does early in the season and go from there. We’re going to use them both right away. I just don’t think Nathan is ready to go three-four days in a row.

At no point did Nathan report any physical problems and he allowed zero runs in six of eight appearances, but an ugly outing last week caused him to end the spring with a bloated 11.05 ERA overall and his velocity is still lagging behind where it was pre-surgery. Ultimately though, unless the Twins were going to start Nathan off in a low-leverage role or on the disabled list there isn’t a huge difference between pitching the eighth inning and pitching the ninth inning.

In most tight games the closer and primary setup man are both going to make an appearance anyway and both roles almost always involve starting an inning fresh and being asked to get three outs, so if the Twins believe Nathan is ready for a late-inning role they might as well just give him ninth-inning duties. Whether he’s actually ready for a late-inning role is up for debate, of course, and plenty of people who watched him in Fort Myers were skeptical.

Orioles acquire Alec Asher from the Phillies

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The Phillies announced on Tuesday that the club traded pitcher Alec Asher to the Orioles for a player to be named later.

Asher, 25, was the victim of a roster crunch. He was not going to make the 25-man roster and the starting rotation at Triple-A Lehigh Valley was already full. The Phillies acquired him from the Rangers in the July 2015 Cole Hamels trade.

Asher had good results in 27 2/3 innings in the big leagues last year, posting a 2.28 ERA with a 13/4 K/BB ratio. While it didn’t show in those stats, the right-hander sometimes struggles with command and he doesn’t miss bats often enough to make up for it. The Orioles, however, are happy to add some pitching depth.

Ervin Santana gets Opening Day nod from Twins again

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Ervin Santana will once again start on Opening Day for the Twins, MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger reports. He’ll face the Royals at home in a day game on Monday, April 3.

The last pitcher to start back-to-back Opening Days for the Twins was Carl Pavano in 2011-12.

Santana, 34, is entering the third year of a four-year, $55 million contract signed in December 2014. Last season, the right-hander finished with a solid 3.38 ERA and a 149/53 K/BB ratio over 181 1/3 innings.