He’s been a fixture in the franchise since its resurgence, he was a critical component of the late-season comeback last year, but now, in a benchmark year for the Minnesota Twins, Joe Nathan says he might not throw a single pitch.
In an emotional interview with WCCO’s Mark Rosen, the veteran closer revealed he is on the brink of season-ending Tommy John surgery. He will try to rest his arm, and hasn’t made a decision about whether to go through on the surgery yet — but Twins GM Bill Smith says the injury is nothing to sneeze at.
It wasn’t long ago that La Velle E. Neal III, one of the Star Tribune’s Twins beat writers, suggested putting Nathan on the trading block. It was an opinion that gained some steam, although Twins management never seemed inclined to deal their dominant righty.
Still, the fact remains: good closers in this league are a dime-a-dozen. There are a lot of hurlers who can go out and throw 15 pitches worth of gas and pick up 3 outs. Jon Rauch, likely to fill the role, has 28 career saves, and was critical in shoring up the Twins’ unsteady middle relief last year. Pat Neshek is also likely to get a chance to close.
But great closers are hard to find. Nathan’s numbers are up there with those of Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman. He’s one of the premier closers in the game. And you can bet that losing Nathan means you automatically tack on 2 to 5 blown saves (read: losses) that you wouldn’t have otherwise.
In a division race as tight as the AL Central, that hurts big time.