Oct 22, 2009, 1:35 PM EDT
Kelly Thesier of MLB.com reports that Joe Nathan had surgery Tuesday to remove two bone chips from his right elbow, which perhaps explains his postseason implosion against the Yankees.
On the other hand, Nathan finished the regular season by converting 13 straight saves with a 1.17 ERA and 19/5 K/BB ratio in his final 15 appearances, so clearly the bone chips weren’t holding him back much as the Twins came from behind to win the AL Central.
Nathan’s raw stuff has certainly declined some over the past two seasons, but that’s to be expected from a pitcher who’ll be 35 years old next month. His average fastball clocked in at 94.8 miles per hour from 2005-2007, but dipped to 93.5 mph last season and 93.6 mph this year. He’s also relied less and less on his fastball, throwing it under 60 percent of the time over the past two years.
Age, postseason struggles, diminished velocity, and now elbow problems are all reasons to worry about Nathan heading into 2010, but it’s tough to imagine the Twins trading a guy who’s neck and neck with Mariano Rivera as the most effective closer in baseball since coming to Minnesota in 2004 and saved the second-most games in the league with a 2.10 ERA, 89/22 K/BB ratio, and .171 opponents’ batting average this season.
He’s signed for $11.25 million in each of the next two seasons, with a $12.5 million option or $2 million buyout for 2012.
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