Joe Nathan’s season and possibly his career are over, as the Tigers announced that the 40-year-old closer suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow while rehabbing at Triple-A for a strained flexor tendon and will undergo Tommy John surgery.
Nathan cut short his Wednesday rehab appearance and walked off the mound in pain, so the significant injury is no surprise.
When the Tigers signed Nathan to a two-year, $20 million deal he was coming off a fantastic two-year run with the Rangers in which he saved 80 games with a 2.09 ERA and 151/35 K/BB ratio and prior to that he was an elite closer with the Twins for seven seasons.
In his decade-long (2004-2013) run as an elite closer Nathan saved 340 games with a 2.14 ERA and .545 opponents’ OPS. For comparison, during that same 2004-2013 span Mariano Rivera saved 369 games with a 1.92 ERA and .540 opponents’ OPS. Nathan also ranks fourth among all relievers in Win Probability Added since 1975, behind only Rivera, Trevor Hoffman, and Goose Gossage.
Things were never right for Nathan in Detroit, however, as he struggled enough to get booed off the mound at Comerica Park, fought back against the angry crowd by making an obscene gesture, and simply never got on track before being shut down with the injury.
Now he’s likely facing a 12-15 month recovery timetable, which means Nathan would be nearly 42 years old upon returning. Retirement seems likely after 15 seasons, 377 saves, a 2.89 ERA, six All-Star games, and $85 million in earnings.
MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports that Cardinals’ shortstop Aledmys Diaz has been sporting a new look around Busch Stadium with a pair of “strobe glasses,” technology-enhanced specs designed to help athletes focus on the ball. Like a strobe light, the lenses of these glasses affect a player’s vision by rapidly changing opacity, giving its wearers the illusion that the objects they see are moving more slowly than normal. Once a player adjusts to the new speed of play, they gain a greater sense of control and are able to time their actions with more precision.
Diaz isn’t the first MLB player to utilize the technology, just the first Cardinals’ player to do so. It’s been tested by Bryce Harper, Corey Brown, Tommy Joseph, Austin Hedges and Joe Mauer, among others around the league, and has been used for everything from refining a catcher’s reflexes behind the plate to tweaking a hitter’s ability to track a pitch. Per Langosch, Diaz has been using the glasses to hone in on the ball during pregame drills, increasing both his confidence and response time on the field and improving his defense at short.
The shortstop has been the focus of some concern this season after seeing a sizable dip in his production at the plate, and his five fielding errors, 0.6 UZR and 0.6 fWAR haven’t helped matters, either. He sustained a minor thumb injury during an at-bat on Friday night, and was left off of the Cardinals’ starting lineup on Saturday, though manager Mike Matheny didn’t rule out his ability to pinch-hit during the series. While the strobe glasses are a good start, Diaz will need more than a pair of specs to match the spotlight-worthy performance he turned out during his rookie season in 2016.
Red Sox’ left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez may finally get a chance at cracking the rotation again, assuming all goes well in Double-A Portland first. Rodriguez took the field prior to the club’s afternoon session with the Angels, firing 68 pitches in a simulated game as he prepared for an upcoming rehab assignment in Portland on Thursday.
The 24-year-old southpaw suffered a right knee subluxation during pregame warmups on June 1, and it’s been a slow path to recovery ever since. It’s not the first time Rodriguez has had issues with his right knee — he sustained a similar injury during spring training last year — and this time around, the Red Sox weren’t about to gamble with their starter’s health. Ian Browne of MLB.com reports that Rodriguez was put in a knee brace and underwent exercises designed to help him regain some mobility and stability while he worked back up to full strength on the mound.
He’ll still need to prove he can throw a 75- to 80-pitch outing in Double-A, and barring any significant setbacks, will likely rejoin the Red Sox’ pitching staff when they visit the Rangers next month. In the meantime, the club will continue to cycle starters through the No. 5 spot, which has seen no fewer than three different pitchers since Rodriguez hit the disabled list. The lefty is 4-2 in 10 starts this season after logging a 3.54 ERA, 3.1 BB/9 and career-high 9.6 SO/9 through his first 61 innings.