Joe Nathan successfully converted a two-run save yesterday in his first appearance since 2009, but his return from Tommy John elbow surgery wasn’t pretty.
He threw just 15 of 31 pitches for strikes and allowed a run on two hits and two walks, with his first out coming on a long fly ball from Blue Jays rookie J.P. Arencibia that nearly tied the game.
More importantly, as was the case throughout spring training Nathan’s velocity was significantly down. His slider wasn’t sharp and his fastball clocked in at 88-91 miles per hour compared to 93-95 mph pre-surgery.
Ron Gardenhire didn’t hesitate handing ninth-inning duties back to Nathan despite an 11.05 ERA this spring, but it’ll be interesting to see how long the leash is with experienced closer Matt Capps serving in a setup role for now. Capps worked the seventh inning yesterday for the first time since 2007.
Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports reports that the Royals have signed pitcher Clay Buchholz to a minor league deal. Buchholz will earn a $1.5 million salary if he makes the club’s major league roster and can earn an additional $250,000 through incentives. Buchholz has an opt-out date set for May 1, which means if he isn’t on the Royals’ 25-man roster by then, he can request his release.
Buchholz, 33, was acquired by the Phillies from the Red Sox in December 2016, but he made only two starts before an MRI revealed he had a partial tear of his right flexor pronator mass. He underwent surgery in April and missed the rest of the season.
The Royals recently lost Jesse Hahn, who was diagnosed with a sprained right UCL. Buchholz would likely be in consideration for a rotation spot if another starter were to suffer an injury. Presently, the Royals’ rotation appears set with Danny Duffy, Ian Kennedy, Jason Hammel, Jake Junis, and Nate Karns.