Joe Nathan gets shaky save in first appearance since 2009

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Joe Nathan successfully converted a two-run save yesterday in his first appearance since 2009, but his return from Tommy John elbow surgery wasn’t pretty.

He threw just 15 of 31 pitches for strikes and allowed a run on two hits and two walks, with his first out coming on a long fly ball from Blue Jays rookie J.P. Arencibia that nearly tied the game.

More importantly, as was the case throughout spring training Nathan’s velocity was significantly down. His slider wasn’t sharp and his fastball clocked in at 88-91 miles per hour compared to 93-95 mph pre-surgery.

Ron Gardenhire didn’t hesitate handing ninth-inning duties back to Nathan despite an 11.05 ERA this spring, but it’ll be interesting to see how long the leash is with experienced closer Matt Capps serving in a setup role for now. Capps worked the seventh inning yesterday for the first time since 2007.