We’ve heard nothing but positive things about Joe Nathan’s rehab from Tommy John surgery until this point and we’re about to get the chance to see him back in game action.
According to Kelly Thesier of MLB.com, Nathan is scheduled to make his first appearance of the spring Tuesday against the Red Sox, less than one year removed from the procedure.
Nathan continues to throw regular bullpen sessions and from what Twins manager Ron Gardenhire told Phil Mackey of 1500ESPN.com, he isn’t treating him much differently than any of the other pitchers on his staff.
“I didn’t hear anything negative,” Gardenhire said about Nathan’s most recent live batting practice session. “And Nathan feels great. He, obviously, has done fine. I’m trying to stay away from asking him how he’s doing every day. He’s had enough of that over the last year. So we’re letting him pitch and letting him be a part of it. I’m just letting him have a spring training and see what happens. I don’t want to get into that. `How’d we do today?'”
The most important thing is that Nathan is feeling healthy, but it will be interesting to see his velocity once he gets back on the mound. The 36-year-old right-hander averaged 93.6 miles per hour on his fastball in 2009, according to FanGraphs. He was reportedly clocked in the high 80s upon arriving to spring training last week.
The Orioles have inked shortstop Alcides Escobar to a minor league contract, MLB.com’s Joe Trezza reported Saturday. The deal comes with an invitation to spring training and will allow Escobar to earn $700,000 in the majors if he breaks camp with the team (via Jon Heyman of MLB Network). The team has yet to formally announce the agreement.
Escobar, 32, completed an eight-year run with the Royals in 2018. No longer the .280-average, 3.0-fWAR player of seasons past, he hit several career lows after batting .231/.279/.313 with four home runs, eight stolen bases (in 10 chances), and a .593 OPS through 531 plate appearances last year. His defensive ratings also took a hit, and FanGraphs pegged him as the fourth-worst shortstop in the majors after he accumulated -12 DRS over the course of the season, only slightly higher than the Orioles/Dodgers’ Manny Machado, Mets’ Amed Rosario, and Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts.
Still, Heyman holds that Escobar is being considered for the starting gig this spring and could yet prove an upgrade over top prospects and infield candidates Richie Martin and Drew Jackson. At the very least, the veteran shortstop figures to stabilize the position given Martin and Jackson’s relative inexperience, as both infielders played to varying results in Double-A Tulsa last year and have yet to break into the majors. Should either player earn consideration for the position in camp, however, Escobar might still work his way onto the Opening Day roster in a utility role as he saw some time at third base, second base, and center field in 2018.