My Q&A with Joe Nathan (I also wrote about Nathan and Morneau returning to Target Field for the Friday paper, and startribune.com):
Q: How will you commemorate your return to Target Field, where you’ve never actually pitched?
JN: I’m just going to throw that dirt (that he scooped from the Metrodome mound after the Twins’ last game there) on the mound when I get back.
Nothing formal, just toss it on there when we head out for BP. Nothing too exciting.
Q: Will this be your biggest Opening Day?
JN: I think they’re all exciting. You’re always excited to get back. Just for myself, to get a chance to play on that field, is exciting. I got a chance to watch a lot of games there. To get a chance to step out onto that field and play is going to be pretty cool. I’ve been away for the fans for a while now. That will be special.
Q: How many full games did you watch last year?
JN: Not a lot. Not a lot in the dugout, at least. I was probably out in the dugout through a lot of games, through the fifth or sixth inning. Then I headed in to get cleaned up and see the rest on TV. Or I just got out of there, depending on if my wife wanted to do something, like have dinner with the kids.
It really depended on each day and how long I was at the field each day, getting my workouts in.
Q: Will it be difficult to control your emotions during your first save opportunity at Target Field?
JN: I think so. Getting a couple of chances on the road here and getting out there, I think that helps. I’m always pretty high-energy out there as it is, at least inside. So the adrenaline, I’m sure is going to be a high, but it always is.
Q: Does it help having two saves already?
JN: I think saves are great, I’m glad I was able to help us get some wins at the end and hold on to a win that almost got away from us.
It helps, but I also still know I have a little ways to go to get back to where I want to be. I’m happy with where I am, but I know I still have some things to do.
But as far as the confidence, I think every time out there, the more I can get some guys out pitching like this, I think it will help. It’s almost like I’m learning how to trick guys as opposed to just saying, 'Here it is, hit it.’
I’m getting away from that with the fastball that I have now. It’s a lot more dangerous to say 'Here it is, hit it,’ when it’s coming in at 90, 91 miles an hour. That’s the postive in this, maybe I learn to pitch a little better with what I have now, so when I get the fastball back - and I’m confident it will come back, hopefully sooner rather than later - that will make me a better pitcher.
Q: Do you think you’ll get all of your velocity back?
JN: I’m looking for where it was. I’d love to be pitching around 94, hitting 95, 96 occasionally. That would be great...
If history proves correct, I’ll get back there. Some guys get stronger. I don’t believe that’s the case with me. I think each case is different, but a lot of guys go from not doing a whiole lot to being forced to do a lot (physically) during their rehab process, so that’s how they get stronger.
For me, I’m just looking to get back to where I was. I find it’s a lot easier to pitch there than where I am now.
Hopefully, this all helps in the long run. A lot of times you learn more from your losses, your struggles, than when things are going well.
Q: Will the same song play when you run in from the bullpen - "Stand Up And Shout."
A: Absolutely. We switched over the second part of it, though, the song that plays when that song ends/ I told them to throw in a little Kid Rock, "Bawitdaba."
Q: Just how emotional will you be when you hear that song?
JN: It’s going to be exciting. I think that’s when I’ve really got to control my energy and try not to get too hyped up, because I’m sure the first time I go out there and hear that song, I can get a little over-amped. I have a lot of adrenaline, already. I won’t need any more.