Yes, we have this thing in Minnesota -- with baseball more than any other sports, it seems -- about keeping track of the players who got away for one reason or another. We've spent more than a decade tracking the soon-to-be-retired David Ortiz; some people still boo A.J. Pierzynski (although Tuesday's hoots sounded more like a formality than anything malicious during the Twins-Atlanta game) and there were those who maintained an ongoing fascination with utility infielder Nick Punto until his retirement.
Understanding that, and sometime being guilty of that on our blog, we feel the need to offer updates on three of the last week's better baseball stories.
Joe Nathan is back in the majors with the Cubs: It's only been two appearances since Nathan returned from elbow surgery that sidelined him after only one game in 2015, but the 41-year-old reliever was the winning pitcher in his return against Milwaukee and pitched a perfect inning in Tuesday's 3-0 loss to the White Sox. He's found himself in the bullpen for a team that's seen as a favorite to win the World Series and thrilled to have found a way back after his second season-long absence from baseball.
Nathan missed the 2010 season with the Twins because of Tommy John surgery and lost his closer's job in the bullpen during a struggle-filled 2011, after which he went to Texas as a free agent.
Nathan told Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press why it was important to make another comeback, which included working his way through the Cubs' minor-league system to show he deserved the shot: “A lot of the motivation is going out on your own terms. And I still may not go out the way I want to, but I gave myself a chance now, and I think one big hurdle that I accomplished is getting back in this game and being able to step back on that mound and face big league hitters.”
You can read Fenech's full story here.
The Cubs are in the middle of a four-game series against the White Sox, who will come to Target Field on Friday with ex-Twins cornerstone Justin Morneau in their dugout. Morneau sat out with injuries for the most of the 2013 and 2015 seasons, while winning the National League batting title in 2014 for Colorado. He's batting .233 in 34 at-bats since joining the White Sox, and one of his seven hits was a home run against Detroit on Friday.
Here's a look:
We're betting he'll get a warmer reception than Pierzynski.
And speaking of home runs, there was this one Tuesday night by Pittsburgh starting pitcher Francisco Liriano, with whom Twins fans had a love-hate relationship for almost his entire time with the team. Any home run hit by a pitcher is extraordinary, but Liriano gets bonus points for taking Felix Hernandez very, very deep.
Take a look: