March 10, 2010 – It is all over the news, bad news for Joe Nathan, the Twins, and Twins fans everywhere. Joe Nathan has a torn ligament in his throwing elbow and right now the decision has been made to rest if for several weeks to see if that helps. No one seems to be holding out much hope that the rest will allow Nathan to pitch in 2010. You can understand the Twins point of view; they have a lot on the line so waiting two weeks or so seems a small price to pay in hoping for a miracle.
The Twins can pursue a trade for a proven closer or a closer in waiting. Word is that Jason Frasor who is currently with Toronto is available as are Heath Bell and Kerry Wood and all three have the necessary experience. Right now that seems like the best option but the price could be more than the Twins want to pay since everyone will be asking for the moon with the Twins in dire straits. If the Twins look internally to fill the void, that would present another problem because they would weaken another area to fill the closer role. But if the Twins choose that path, then I think that the pecking order for the closer role should be Rauch, Crain and Mijares. I think that Guerrier is too valuable in the role he is currently in to move to the closer position. Neshek is coming off TJ surgery himself and I can’t see the Twins putting him into the closer role at least during the first half of the season. The Twins don’t have anyone in the minors that they would trust in such a key role for a team expected to go deep in the playoffs. Whatever they do, the Twins must make a decision soon and get the bullpen calmed down with designated roles for everyone, and you don’t want the relievers to go day to day without knowing what their role will be on any given day.
I went to my first Twins spring training game of the season yesterday and saw the Twins beat the Cardinals 7-6 in an entertaining game. When we drove to the park it was crazy, traffic was backed up everywhere and I was sent driving all around the complex before they finally found a parking spot for me in right field of one of the complex’s softball fields. A five minute walk got me in the ballpark but it was the bottom of the first inning and the Twins were already down 2-0 and Adam Wainwright was starting for the Cardinals. It was a back and forth game and I think the Nathan situation was on some of the player’s minds. Nick Punto, playing 3B made two errors and just did not look like his head was in the game. There were some other fielding plays that could have been called errors but were not due to the generosity of the official scorer. Carl Pavano started for the Twins and looked OK but he did give up six hits in three innings. The big blow came in the bottom of the 8th inning with the score tied 6-6 and Danny Valencia came up to the plate for the first time and parked the ball over the left field fence for a home run. It was a nice ending to a fun day at the ballpark. Oh, why the traffic jam? I guess it was because the Twins drew their largest ever crowd to a spring training game at Hammond Stadium, 8,220 baseball starved fans got to see the Twins beat the St. Louis Cardinals.
UPDATE March 21 – The Twins announced this morning that Joe Nathan will undergo “Tommy John” surgery sometime this week. The doctor and location are still to be determined.