La Velle E. Neal III has covered baseball for the Star Tribune since 1998 (the post-Knoblauch era). Born and raised in Chicago, he grew up following the White Sox and hating the Cubs. He attended both the University of Illinois and Illinois-Chicago and began his baseball writing career at the Kansas City Star. He can be heard occasionally on KFAN radio, lending his great baseball mind to Paul Allen and other hosts. Mark Rosen borrows him occasionally for WCCO-TV.

Twins postgame: Nathan in pressure role. Plouffe has short memory.

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: May 19, 2011 - 1:22 AM

Joe Nathan is not a thinker on the mound. He rarely shakes off his catcher.

And he didn't bat an eye when catcher Drew Butera signaled for a breaking ball with two on in the ninth and a 3-2 count to Mark Ellis.

``(Butera) definitely was the only one who had that idea,'' Nathan said. ``He was the only one in the park who knew,;;

Nathan followed orders and threw a breaker that, uh, might have been a little inside. But not in home plate umpire Ted Barrett's world. Strike three. Conor Jackson followed with a ground out to end in the inning, then the Twins won 4-3 in 10.

``Pretty filthy in a do-or-die situation,'' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Who else can Twins manager Ron Gardenhire trust in late innings these days. He has decided to use Nathan later in games,

Nathan has made progress since taking himself out of the closer's role last month. He's missing the plate by smaller margins. He's not yanking his slider down and off to the left of home plate. He did throw a bad slider to Kurt Suzuki in the ninth that turned into a double, but he feels he's getting better. He's using his curveball more, and was willing to throw it when asked in a tight situation.

``It is not all there yet,'' Nathan said, ``but it is getting there. It's going to be some time to get things where I want. But these outings give me more confidence every time I go out.''

Sounds like Nathan is going to go out later in games as a set up man to closer Matt Capps. Nathan, by the way, got the win, his first since Aug, 21, 2009 at Kansas City.

PLOUFFE SHAKES IT OFF

Not a fan of these late night west coast games, They are deadline killers. We write a story, grab quotes, throw a couple in and hope it reads well.

If this game would have been at Target Field, and there would have been time to work at this craft, I would have written about Trevor Plouffe, who shook off a throwing error in the second inning to drive in three of the Twins' four runs.

His throwing error came after Carl Pavano failed to cover first on a grounder, so runners moved to second and third then scored on Kevin Kouzmanoff's single. That gave Oakland a 2-1 lead.

Plouffe shook off the error and came through with a two-run single in the next inning. Then his sacrifice fly in the 10th allowed Delmon Young to score the winning run. That run was set up by Daric Barton's awful throw after fielding Alexi Casilla's bunt.

Plouffe has a couple weeks to prove he's ready for this level. His play on Wednesday helped his cause.

``I knew I was prepared,'' he said. ``I took a million ground balls before the game. Made a bunch of throws before the game. One just got away from me. Earlier, maybe last year or earlier in my career, I would have dwelled on it and made a couple more errors and had a couple of bad at-bats. Hopefully, That's something I've put past me. I think I have, having a short memory and knowing that I'm prepared.''

Etc.

Delmon Young's single snapped an 0-for-12 skid.

Denard Span's double snapped an 0-for-11 skid.

Danny Valencia is in a 0-for-16 skid.

Justin Morneau barely had more assists (8) than Vancouver Canucks goals (7).

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