Joe Nathan reclaims closer job despite 11.05 spring ERA

Leave a comment

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.

Watch: Brian McCann’s incredible tag nails Greg Bird at home plate

Getty Images
3 Comments

Things got a little wild in the fifth inning of Game 7 of the ALCS on Saturday. With one out and runners at the corners, Astros’ right-hander Charlie Morton fired a 1-1 fastball to Todd Frazier. Frazier returned the ball to third baseman Alex Bregman, who tossed a perfect throw over to Brian McCann at the plate just as Greg Bird came charging home. McCann’s setup was flawless, nailing Bird as he slid into the plate and nullifying the Yankees’ first real attempt to get on the board.

That’s as close as the Yankees have come to scoring so far. The Astros took an early 1-0 lead with Evan Gattis‘ 405-footer off of CC Sabathia in the top of the fourth inning. Jose Altuve chimed in with an opposite-field solo shot in the fifth, while McCann followed his lead-preserving tag with an equally jaw-dropping two-out, two-RBI double. Houston currently leads 4-0 in the bottom of the fifth.