Joe Nathan plans to resume closing after coming back from Tommy John surgery

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Joe Nathan is 10 months removed from Tommy John elbow surgery and told Charley Walters of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he plans to pick up right where he left off as the Twins’ closer once he arrives at spring training on February 17.

Nathan saved 47 games in 2009 and has been the second-best closer in baseball since coming to Minnesota in 2004, but the Twins acquired Matt Capps from the Nationals to serve as their closer down the stretch last season and he’s under contract for 2011 at $7.1 million.

If healthy there’s little doubt that Nathan will reclaim ninth-inning duties and make Capps an overpaid setup man, but the Twins learned first-hand with Francisco Liriano that not all pitchers return from Tommy John surgery with their old stuff intact and Nathan has just now been cleared to start throwing breaking balls.

I don’t plan on being left out of any drills or held back in any way. If something else says something differently, we’ll go from there. But my mind-set right now is that I’m closing and getting ready for the season. That’s my plan. We’ll see how it goes. There’s always going to be a question mark. For the most part, things have gone well. Obviously, there are some sessions when you wish it went better. But these are the things you’ve got to do to come back. It’s tough to gauge now, but at this stage, it feels good.

Nathan’s comeback is particularly key for the Twins because they lost nearly half of last season’s relief innings with Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, Brian Fuentes, and Jon Rauch all leaving as free agents and haven’t acquired a single veteran reliever to replace them this offseason. They’re counting on Nathan and Capps anchoring the bullpen while various young guys step up and claim jobs.

José Altuve records hit in 10 consecutive plate appearances

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Astros second baseman José Altuve recorded a hit in 10 consecutive plate appearances between Friday and Sunday against the Indians. If the Astros were still in the National League, that would tie a league record, but the AL and overall record is 12 consecutive hits, which was accomplished by the Tigers’ Walt Dropo on July 14 and 15 in 1952. Altuve’s 10 consecutive hits did set a new Astros record, however. The previous club record was eight, set by Altuve last season.

In his third plate appearance on Friday, Altuve grounded out to shortstop. Here were his next 10 trips to the dish:

  1. Two-run double
  2. Double
  3. Infield single
  4. Two-run home run
  5. Single
  6. Triple
  7. Single
  8. Infield single
  9. RBI double
  10. RBI single

This was hit No. 10:

In his final at-bat in the top of the ninth on Sunday, Altuve lined out to center field to end his streak. Teammate Josh Reddick, currently on the disabled list, was impressed with the streak:

After Sunday’s performance, Altuve is hitting .332/.378/.459 with three home runs, 28 RBI, and 31 runs scored in 239 plate appearances this season. His OPS was .760 after Thursday’s game and is now .837.