Mop-up man no more: Twins move Joe Nathan into setup role

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Joe Nathan was stripped of closing duties and demoted to mop-up man following back-to-back blown saves in mid-April, but with the rest of the Twins’ bullpen struggling and Nathan putting together a string of decent outings Ron Gardenhire has decided to move him into a higher-leverage role.

Gardenhire told Phil Mackey of 1500ESPN.com that Nathan and Glen Perkins will serve as the primary setup men for closer Matt Capps, which is somewhat surprising because Nathan has hardly looked fantastic since losing ninth-inning duties.

He’s made a total of seven appearances since the demotion, allowing six runs in seven innings, although five of his last six outings have been scoreless and his recent velocity is noticeably improved from his initial post-Tommy John surgery stuff. Nathan, who led all relievers in ERA and saves from 2004-2009, has a 7.30 ERA and 10/8 K/BB ratio in 12 innings overall.

Dodgers activate Adrian Gonzalez

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The Dodgers have reinstated first baseman Adrian Gonzalez from the 60-day disabled list after his recovery from a herniated disc. To make room for him they have optioned Rob Segedin to Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Gonzalez last played on June 11. Since then the Dodgers have gone an astounding 46-9, with shoe-in rookie of the year candidate Cody Bellinger handling first base duties and posting a .978 OPS. When Gonzalez went down he was hitting .255/.304/.339 and only one homer in 49 games.

It’ll be interesting to see what kind of playing time he gets going forward. The Dodgers, of course, have a comfortable lead in the NL West, so they could afford to allow Gonzalez to play a good bit to see if his bat sharpens up while simultaneously giving Bellinger, who has never played more than 137 games in a season, a bit of a breather. Beyond that, though, the Dodgers ain’t broke, so it’s hard to see why anyone would want to tinker with things.

Rays activate Kevin Kiermaier

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The Tampa Bay Rays have activated outfielder Kevin Kiermaier from the 60-day disabled list.

Kiermaier, who fractured his hip in early June, is batting leadoff and playing center field in tonight’s game against the Mariners. He was just 3-for-24 on his rehab assignment, but those aren’t usually predictive of anything. He was hitting .258/.329/.408 when he went down. Getting his bat — and, more importantly, his glove — back in the lineup will boost the struggling Rays in their quest for a playoff spot.