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.
The Mariners have activated third baseman Kyle Seager from the 60-day injured list, per a team announcement on Saturday. Dylan Moore has been optioned to Triple-A Tacoma to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Seager, while right-handed reliever Sam Tuivailala has been placed on the 60-day IL (ruptured Achilles tendon).
Seager, 31, suffered a partial tear in the extensor tendon of his left hand during spring training and has yet to make his season debut. He underwent surgery on the tendon in mid-March and has had a long and slow recovery since then, eventually working his way up to a few starts in Triple-A last week. Through his first nine games in the minors, he batted .256/.310/.308 with two extra bases, seven RBI, and a .617 OPS over 42 plate appearances.
Any progress is good progress, though, and the Mariners will no doubt be looking to Seager to uphold the .250+ average, 3.0+ fWAR totals of seasons past as he works his way back to a full workload — especially with fellow third baseman Ryon Healy headed to the 10-day IL with a bout of back inflammation. Seager will start at third and bat sixth when the club faces off against the Athletics at 4:07 PM EDT on Saturday.