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With Nathan struggling, Twins name Matt Capps new closer

Apr 17, 2011, 10:30 AM EDT

matt capps rueters Reuters

Twins right-hander Joe Nathan blew his second consecutive save opportunity on Saturday afternoon against the Rays and has looked like a shell of his former self since spring training began.

Only 13 months removed from Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery, the veteran Nathan simply doesn’t have the arm strength nor the command to handle high pressure situations.

So the Twins made a change on Sunday.

According to Kelsie Smith of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Minnesota coaching staff has decided to name Matt Capps as the team’s new closer. Nathan will be used in low pressure middle relief situations until he begins showing improvement.

Capps has allowed three earned runs in his last 1.1 innings of work, but he was really sharp in the ninth inning last season for the Nationals and Twins, and he should be able to handle the responsibility here in 2011.

Nathan was the picture of consistency at the back end of the Twins’ bullpen for an entire decade and he should be able to get back to an elite level eventually. But, right now, he’s not fit for the role.

Minnesota is currently sitting at the bottom of the American League Central standings with a 4-10 record.

  1. sknut - Apr 17, 2011 at 11:21 AM

    this is the right decision. it sucks the twins got 15 innings of one run ball from Pavanno and Baker with nothing to show for it. I am glad gardy pulled the trigger early.

  2. Jeremiah Graves - Apr 17, 2011 at 11:23 AM

    As a Twins fan who was a tad pessimistic coming into the season, this move to “improve” isn’t going to change my mood much.

    Bill Smith had a piss-poor offseason. He gutted the middle infield. He made no legit moves to shore up the bullpen. The rotation has too many arms, but not enough that I’d be comfortable running out every five days. The offense is missing “something” and we’re relying very, very heavily on a bunch of guys with recent injury problems to be healthy and productive.

    …also, I don’t like Danny Valencia.

    • kander013 - Apr 17, 2011 at 11:33 AM

      A pessimistic Twins fan? Weird. Look, we’re about 15 games into the year and it hasn’t gone well-and there aren’t many positives to look at (umm, Blackburn? maybe). But if you look at the teams we’ve played, these are AL East teams that normally under Gardy the team hasn’t done well so let’s not freak out yet.

      We’re halfway through month one of a 6 month season, some how I believe there is time to turn it around. Yea, Bill Smith had an awful off-season, but who do you pick up? Yes, depth is an issue right now and I wish we would have kept Hardy, but he’s hurt right now.

      And the low blow to Valencia? What don’t you like about him? What other choice would you like playing 3rd? Last time I checked, the last decent 3rd baseman we had was Koskie, so again-let’s give it some time.

      • nostrallamas - Apr 17, 2011 at 12:15 PM

        Sounds like your one of the Twins faithful who is satisfied winning the division, making the playoffs, and getting bounced in the first round.

    • JBerardi - Apr 17, 2011 at 3:20 PM

      “The offense is missing “something”

      By “something” I assume you mean “more than two guys who’s names I can remember”.

  3. kander013 - Apr 17, 2011 at 12:42 PM

    You’re right because you can win the division in April. What do you want them to do at this point? They’ve played 14 games out of a 162 game season-tell me what changes they should make.

  4. tomemos - Apr 17, 2011 at 12:54 PM

    Would Chris Fiorentino prefer to have Matt Capps over Matt Cain, now? Or is he sticking with Nathan?

  5. dfensfelix - Apr 17, 2011 at 3:35 PM

    This is, without a doubt, the right move. Nathan’s been serving meatloaf at every early opportunity, and Capps proved himself more than worthy of the closer role last season. I hope I’m wrong about this (I’m not), but I don’t see Joe ever making it back to All-Star form from TJ surgery at 36 (he’ll be 37 in November). Capps has to be considered the closer of the Twins’ forseeable future.

  6. BC - Apr 18, 2011 at 9:27 AM

    Unless his velocity is way down, why not give him a little more of a chance? Dude hasn’t pitched in a long time. Conversely, if he’s laboring to get the ball to the plate, then its the right move.

  7. akismet-e94e2dd5b966290bc3e91dd6e183caeb - Apr 18, 2011 at 11:55 AM

    “Dude hasn’t pitched in a long time,” which is exactly why he shouldn’t be pitching in high leverage situations. But of course, if you take Nathan out of the high leverage situations, who do you use? Perkins? Huey? Not too appetizing. The nice side effect of Nathan in the closer role is that it allowed Gardy to use Capps more appropriately–bringing him in the 7th, more than 3 outs, etc. Now that Capps is the “closer” he will be limited to starting the 9th, but only in save situations. I’m all for allowing Nathan to work himself back into form (and his command certainly has been lacking), but the bullpen sets up so much better with Nathan in the 9th inning slot.

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