After a decade as an elite closer Joe Nathan was bad enough in his first season in Detroit that Tigers fans booed him of the mound at one point and he responded with a chin-flick gesture that later came with an apology.
Nathan is under contract for $10 million in 2015, but the Tigers have indicated that he’ll be on a much shorter leash in the closer role at age 40.
Nathan told Jason Beck of MLB.com that he understands the criticism and plans to bounce back in a big way this season:
I don’t want people thinking that I’m done. I think coming into not just the spring, but coming into the season, I want to prove to myself and other people I still have something left in the tank.
Part of Nathan’s struggles were due to elbow problems, so the six-time All-Star said he’s been focusing on improving his arm strength this offseason as well as getting more agile. And while it’s not quite Best Shape of His Life stuff, Nathan did say “I’ve gotten stronger than I’ve ever felt.”
We’ll see if it makes a difference in the battle against father time.