Mop-up man no more: Twins move Joe Nathan into setup role

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Joe Nathan was stripped of closing duties and demoted to mop-up man following back-to-back blown saves in mid-April, but with the rest of the Twins’ bullpen struggling and Nathan putting together a string of decent outings Ron Gardenhire has decided to move him into a higher-leverage role.

Gardenhire told Phil Mackey of 1500ESPN.com that Nathan and Glen Perkins will serve as the primary setup men for closer Matt Capps, which is somewhat surprising because Nathan has hardly looked fantastic since losing ninth-inning duties.

He’s made a total of seven appearances since the demotion, allowing six runs in seven innings, although five of his last six outings have been scoreless and his recent velocity is noticeably improved from his initial post-Tommy John surgery stuff. Nathan, who led all relievers in ERA and saves from 2004-2009, has a 7.30 ERA and 10/8 K/BB ratio in 12 innings overall.

Royals fire manager Mike Matheny after 65-97 end to season

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred were fired by the Kansas Cty Royals on Wednesday night, shortly after the struggling franchise finished the season 65-97 with a listless 9-2 loss to the Cleveland Guardians.

The Royals had exercised their option on Matheny’s contract for 2023 during spring training, when the club hoped it was turning the corner from also-ran to contender again. But plagued by poor pitching, struggles from young position players and failed experiments with veterans, the Royals were largely out of playoff contention by the middle of summer.

The disappointing product led owner John Sherman last month to fire longtime front office executive Dayton Moore, the architect of back-to-back American League champions and the 2015 World Series title team. Moore was replaced by one of his longtime understudies, J.J. Picollo, who made the decision to fire Matheny hours after the season ended.

Matheny became the fifth big league manager to be fired this year.

Philadelphia’s Joe Girardi was replaced on June 3 by Rob Thomson, who engineered a miraculous turnaround to get the Phillies into the playoffs as a wild-card team. The Angels replaced Joe Maddon with Phil Nevin four days later, Toronto’s Charlie Montoyo was succeeded by John Schneider on July 13 and the Rangers’ Chris Woodward by Tony Beasley on Aug. 15.

In addition, Miami’s Don Mattingly said late last month that he will not return next season.