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.

Shohei Ohtani will undergo Tommy John surgery once the season ends

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The Angels announced on Tuesday that P/DH Shohei Ohtani will undergo Tommy John surgery during the first week of the offseason (next week). The surgery will be performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles. The Angels don’t have a timetable for Ohtani’s recovery yet but will provide more information when it becomes available.

Ohtani, 24, underwent an MRI earlier this month which showed new damage to the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He decided to play out most of the remainder of the season before making a decision. While Ohtani certainly wouldn’t be able to pitch next year, the Angels are confident that he will still be able to function as a full-time DH with no issues.

Ohtani had an outstanding first season in the majors. He hit .280/.361/.564 with 21 home runs, 56 RBI, 55 runs scored, and nine stolen bases in 347 plate appearances. As a pitcher, he posted a 3.31 ERA with 63 strikeouts and 22 walks in 51 2/3 innings across 10 starts.

The Angels have five games left this season, all at home. They have two more against the Rangers, are off Thursday, then wrap up the season with a three-game set with the Athletics.