With Nathan struggling, Twins name Matt Capps new closer

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Twins right-hander Joe Nathan blew his second consecutive save opportunity on Saturday afternoon against the Rays and has looked like a shell of his former self since spring training began.

Only 13 months removed from Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery, the veteran Nathan simply doesn’t have the arm strength nor the command to handle high pressure situations.

So the Twins made a change on Sunday.

According to Kelsie Smith of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Minnesota coaching staff has decided to name Matt Capps as the team’s new closer. Nathan will be used in low pressure middle relief situations until he begins showing improvement.

Capps has allowed three earned runs in his last 1.1 innings of work, but he was really sharp in the ninth inning last season for the Nationals and Twins, and he should be able to handle the responsibility here in 2011.

Nathan was the picture of consistency at the back end of the Twins’ bullpen for an entire decade and he should be able to get back to an elite level eventually. But, right now, he’s not fit for the role.

Minnesota is currently sitting at the bottom of the American League Central standings with a 4-10 record.

Zack Wheeler headed to IL due to shoulder fatigue

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Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler will be placed on the 10-day injured list due to fatigue in his right shoulder, Newsday’s Tim Healey reports. The roster move is retroactive to July 12. Steven Matz will open up a two-game series in Minnesota, starting in Wheeler’s place on Tuesday.

As Healey notes, the soonest Wheeler can return is July 23, which would give him at most two starts ahead of the July 31 trade deadline. Wheeler has frequently been brought up in trade conversations as he can become a free agent after the season and the 42-51 Mets have been freefalling.

Wheeler, 29, owns a 4.69 ERA with 130 strikeouts and 34 walks across 119 innings of work this season.