So now what?Let’s see what the Magic 8 Ball says…
Will the Twins go out an acquire another closer?8 Ball: Very Doubtful
This question will likely be asked of GM Bill Smith this morning, and I can give you the answer almost verbatim:
"We have a lot of guys that we have faith in.”
And Smith is right. The Twins are fortunate that this happened when they have one of the deeper bullpens they’ve ever had. An injury to a closer doesn’t just affect who pitches in the ninth inning; it affects who pitches in every other inning, since every other reliever is bumped back an inning. The depth of the bullpen is as important a factor as Joe Nathan’s eventual replacement is. And the Twins bullpen, with Matt Guerrier, Jose Mijares, Pat Neshek, Jon Rauch, Jesse Crain and Clay Condrey is as deep as it has been in years. And there is a trio of guys in the minors that might also be able to contribute significantly this year.
Who is Nathan’s replacement?
8 Ball: Better Not Tell You Now
This question will be asked of manager Ron Gardenhire this morning, and I can give you the answer almost verbatim:
“We have a lot of guys that we have faith in.”
The bottom line is that Gardenhire can’t predict right now who will be the closer on Opening Day, just like he can’t tell you who the 7th inning setup man is going to be. The default choice is the 8th inning setup guy, who was Guerrier, but his durability is in question. But if you’re looking for pure stuff, Mijares and Neshek look like they could eventually be closers in the majors.
And Rauch was a closer with the Nationals - plus he's just a scary looking guy. (He looks like he'd rather eat you than give up a game-winning hit.) So there are options.
The good news is that this is Gardenhire’s (and pitching coach Rick Anderson’s) strength. They have been very good about identifying which pitcher is throwing well and slotting them in the appropriate bullpen role. So it probably comes down to which pitcher, coming out of spring training, is throwing the ball well.
So is it possible that this is not terrible news?
8 Ball: Outlook not so good
Oh, it’s terrible news. The guys the Twins have might do a decent job, but Nathan was the grim reaper – a trump card that the Twins could play to end games early. Some feel like the value of closers is overrated, and there is plenty of evidence that is true, but there is very little evidence that Nathan was overrated. Compared to other closers he was exceptional, and that makes him extremely valuable.
Now it’s your turn. Give us your thoughts and comments below. What will the Twins do, what should the Twins do, and how much does this hurt?
8 Ball image courtesy of wynlok.