Twins closer Joe Nathan is only 13 months removed from Tommy John surgery, a procedure that can take up to 18 months to fully recover from.
And it’s really beginning to show.
Nathan blew his second consecutive save opportunity on Saturday afternoon in Minnesota’s 4-3 loss to the Rays. He entered in the ninth inning to a 3-2 lead but gave up a solo home run to Ben Zobrist, the first batter he faced, and then walked two batters before getting yanked. Jose Mijares surrendered the Rays’ fourth run just a few hitters later as the Rays stormed the field in celebration.
Nathan averaged 93.6 MPH with his fastball in 2009 and 93.5 MPH in 2008. From 2005-2007 it averaged 94.8 MPH. This year, that pitch is clocking in at just 91.2 MPH.
And it’s not just about the velocity. When Nathan is at his best, he doesn’t walk batters very often. But he has already issued five free passes against only three strikeouts through 5 1/3 frames this season.
The Twins may need to hand closing duties off to another reliever while Nathan builds his arm strength in low pressure situations. Matt Capps hasn’t looked sharp in recent appearances, but he would probably be the guy if the Minnesota coaching staff should decide that a change needs to be made.
Yesterday Mike Trout left the Marlins-Angels game after hurting his thumb while sliding head first into second base. After the game the Angels talked about it as if it were just a sprain. Trout had an MRI today, however, and the diagnosis is far worse: he has a torn thumb ligament.
While a treatment option has not yet been chosen, surgery is a possibility. A certainty is that he’ll miss, at the very least, several weeks of play. He has been placed on the disabled list for the first time in his career.
Trout, the reigning AL MVP and, without question, the best player in baseball, is batting .337/.461/.742 with 16 home runs, 36 RBI, 36 runs scored, and 10 stolen bases in 206 plate appearances this season. Even with the one of the weaker supporting casts in baseball, Trout had the Angels near .500 and in at least arguable contention in the AL West.
Without him, they are likely sunk. Without him, baseball is worse off.
SAN FRANCISCO — Nationals slugger Bryce Harper and San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland both landed punches to the head during a wild brawl that erupted Monday after a hit by pitch.
Harper was hit in the right hip by Strickland’s 98 mph fastball in the eighth inning with Washington ahead 2-0.
Harper pointed the bat toward Strickland, charged the mound and fired his batting helmet wide of the pitcher. They started to swing away and they each connected as the benches and bullpens emptied.
At least two Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the brawl all the way into the dugout. Harper and Strickland were both ejected.
In the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland. After the star’s second shot, in Game 4, he stared at Strickland as he rounded the bases.