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.
ESPN’s Keith Law reported on Saturday evening that a bad contract swap involving the Braves’ Hector Olivera and the Padres’ Matt Kemp was “getting close.” Olivera has been pulled off the field, per Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that only a last-second medical would kill the deal at this point, and that the Padres will be sending money to the Braves.
Kemp, 31, will have $64.5 million remaining on his contract through 2019 after this season, but the Dodgers will pay $3.5 million annually over those remaining three years, so the $64.5 million is really $54 million. The veteran has compiled a .262/.285/.489 triple-slash line with 23 home runs and 69 RBI in 431 plate appearances for the Padres this season.
Olivera, 31, will have $28.5 million remaining on his contract through 2010 after this season. The outfielder was handed an 82-game suspension, beginning on May 26, for his involvement in a domestic dispute on April 13. He has a .501 OPS in 21 major league at-bats this season and a .278 OPS in 37 PA at Triple-A.
Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the Padres will consider designating Olivera for assignment. The trade is all about the salary dump for the Padres, as they’d rather give outfield playing time to prospects Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot.
The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.
Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.
Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.
Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.