Scoggins: Nathan adjusting to new team

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 13, 2012 - 11:32 PM

The former Twins closer hasn't been lights-out with the Rangers, but he sees good things ahead.

Texas Rangers catcher Yorvit Torrealba, left, and closer Joe Nathan congratulated each other after defeating the Chicago White Sox earlier this month..

Photo: Tony Gutierrez, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Joe Nathan entered Target Field and eventually made his way to the home clubhouse, a walk he has made many times. This one felt strange, even awkward.

Any uneasiness quickly disappeared, however, as he reconnected with a dozen former teammates and coaches inside the Twins clubhouse on Friday. Though he wears a different uniform now, Nathan, the Twins' all-time saves leader, seemed to enjoy his first homecoming and the nostalgia that accompanied it.

"I miss these guys for sure," he said. "This place was very good to me for a long time, so it's nice to be back."

Nathan's visit also served as a reminder that his current team, the Texas Rangers, operates in a different realm than his previous employer. He departed a 99-loss team and joined one coming off back-to-back World Series appearances and espouses a win-right-now mentality.

That explains the nervousness that Nathan's first week as the team's new closer generated within that fan base. In four appearances, he went 0-2 with two saves, one blown save and a 9.00 ERA.

It's never ideal when a manager feels compelled to defend his closer publicly so early in the season, but that's the position the Rangers' Ron Washington took the past few days, saying he knew Nathan "wasn't going to be perfect."

"Joe is the closer," Washington said.

Nathan didn't get the nod Friday in a save situation, however. Alexi Ogando pitched the ninth inning of a 4-1 victory, an interesting development since Nathan got the day off Thursday as well. Washington said he simply wanted to give Nathan an extra day's rest.

Nathan's uneven start shouldn't automatically signal a cause for alarm. He has five strikeouts and no walks in four innings, and he's a veteran who can figure things out and make the necessary adjustments.

If anything, Nathan sounds optimistic about the way he's throwing the ball. His arm feels healthy after he missed the 2010 season following Tommy John surgery and, at 37, he still has a fastball that resides in the low 90s.

"I think now I'm just trying to get back to where I was before surgery, because I feel so good now," he said.

Nathan's early hiccups mostly stem from his inability to locate his slider, although it should be noted that his two poor outings came on a second consecutive day of work, which is not a good sign for a pitcher his age.

"I feel strong," he said. "It wasn't a matter of being tired when I'm out there."

Washington isn't concerned, either.

"The only way Joe won't throw back-to-back is if he labors or he throws a ton of pitches to get those three outs," he said. "We're not babying anybody. Not now anyway."

The Rangers took a gamble by signing Nathan to a two-year, $14.75 million deal to replace Neftali Feliz, who moved into the starting rotation. Feliz faltered in Game 6 of the World Series, but he was an effective closer with electric stuff. The Rangers wanted him as a starter, though, and hit the market for a closer. The Twins couldn't justifiably pick up Nathan's $12 million option, and he found a perfect landing spot.

"I'm at a point in my career where I have one thing on my mind, and that's postseason," he said. "I've been very fortunate in this game to have seen and done a lot of things. But the one thing that I wanted the most has eluded me."

The Rangers put their faith in Nathan, knowing this team is expected to win big. If Nathan pitches to the level he did pre-surgery, the Rangers should remain contenders. If he struggles, the backlash will be hotter than a Texas summer.

"Somebody asked me, 'Does it put a lot of pressure on you when there's so many guys in the pen that can do this job?'" Nathan said. "I said, 'If anything, it takes pressure off of us knowing we have lots of guys that can do lots of different things.' You play 162 games, you're not going to be sharp for some of the games you go out there. You're not going to have your best stuff sometimes. It's how you can make adjustments."

He made a different kind of adjustment Friday, a visitor in a place he once called home. That understandably felt a little strange, but he found it helpful to see some friendly faces again.

"They gave me a wonderful opportunity back in 2004," he said. "I have nothing but good thoughts when I think about Minnesota, when I think about this stadium, the Dome and the fans here. A lot of people treated me and my family very well while we were here, and I appreciate all of it."

Chip Scoggins • ascoggins@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions
Final123456789RHE
Minnesota000000000040
Detroit «00100002X340
@Ballpark Replay
Preview | Matchup | Lineup | Log | Wrap | Box
W:D.Price(15-12) L:K.Gibson(13-12) S:J.Nathan (35)
HR: MIN- None DET- I.Kinsler (17)

ADVERTISEMENT

Kansas City - WP: J. Guthrie 3 FINAL
San Francisco - LP: T. Hudson 2
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
New Orleans 10/30/14 7:25 PM
Carolina
Dallas 117 FINAL
Orlando 92
New York 80 FINAL
Toronto 83
San Antonio 87 FINAL
Houston 96
Miami 104 FINAL
Memphis 98
Minnesota 113 FINAL
Chicago 112
Phoenix 105 FINAL
Utah 100
Sacramento 93 FINAL
LA Lakers 92
Denver 112 FINAL
Golden State 119
Portland 99 FINAL
LA Clippers 89
Dallas 3 FINAL(SO)
New Jersey 2
Tampa Bay 4 FINAL
Winnipeg 2
Vancouver 3 FINAL
Colorado 7
Carolina 3 FINAL
Edmonton 6
Columbus 1 FINAL
Anaheim 4
Connecticut 21 FINAL
(18) East Carolina 31
Miami-Florida 30 FINAL
Virginia Tech 6
So Florida 17 FINAL
Cincinnati 34
Troy 13 FINAL
South Alabama 27
BYU 30 FINAL
Boise State 55
(6) Oregon 59 FINAL
California 41
North Texas 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10:59 PM
Hawaii
(2) Florida State 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Louisville
Troy 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Cincinnati 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Tulane
Tulsa 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Memphis
Purdue 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
(17) Oklahoma 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Iowa State
Oklahoma State 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
(10) TCU 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(22) West Virginia
Texas 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Texas Tech
Northwestern 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Iowa
Maryland 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Penn State
Houston 1 FINAL
Chicago 2
Montreal 23 FINAL
Ottawa 17
Saskatchewan 27 FINAL
Calgary 40
Hamilton 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 6:00 PM
Winnipeg
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Toronto 11/2/14 11:00 AM
Montreal
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who should get the Twins' managing job?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close