Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Joe Nathan out for the Year!
I said I wasnít going to worry about Joe Nathan until someone told me that I should worry about Joe Nathan. Well, this morning, we were told that he has a torn UCL, is out for the year and will decide soon if he will have Tommy John surgery. OK, now, I am worried. The Twins have plenty of closing options, but any time you lose a guy who has been arguably the top closer in baseball over the last five or six years, itís not a good thing. First and foremost, we wish him well. But it certainly creates questions!
What are your thoughts? Who is next in line to close? (My guess would be Matt Guerrier. Heís been around and heís been able to get the job done. Not a classic closer, but a very good pitcher.) Jesse Crain, Jon Rauch, Jose Mijares, maybe even Pat Neshek are options as well. Remember when we said the bullpen depth this year was great? Well, now that becomes hugely important!
∑ First, I should point out that it has not yet been determined that Nathan will miss the entire year. He will rest it for a couple of weeks and then throw again. However, this is a similar injury to what Pat Neshek had. It is also the same injury that Loek Van Mil had, and he is still not 100%
∑ Iím hearing Francisco Lirianoís name bantered about as a possible closer option. For me, that just doesnít work. I am fully of the belief that any very good pitcher can be a closer IF (and that is intentionally a Big IF) he has the mental strength to handle it. No one questions Lirianoís stuff, but I donít think anyone would consider him real strong emotionally.
∑ The Twins like to give guys opportunities that deserve it. That is why I think that Matt Guerrier would be Option #1. Heís earned it. Would he keep it? We shall see. He doesnít profile as a typical closer like guys like Jesse Crain and Jose Mijares might, but he could be solid. Iím not as high on Jon Rauch as many, but heís certainly another option. †
∑ Bullpen by committee has never really worked, but until someone steps forward, that may be the best way to start.
∑ Pat Neshek is the best option in terms of stuff and mental strength for the job, but rushing him back into that type of role might not be best. But he certainly could be that option later in the season.
∑ Minor league guys could get a more extended look. Guys like Anthony Slama and Rob Delaney and to a lesser extent Alex Burnett could stick around big league camp longer and factor into the bullpen. None of them should be immediately slotted into the closerís role, but they could be seen sooner now. Carlos Gutierrez is another option, but the Twins do want to see what he can be as a start. He has, in my mind, the best Ďcloserí stuff in the minor leagues.
∑ Names like Heath Bell and George Sherrill are already being mentioned. Bell makes some sense, for sure, but the Padress always seem to ask for the world for their players. Would Perkins and Casilla get the deal done?
∑ I will be on The Fan (am710) at 11:00 this morning to talk about Joe Nathan and the Twins. It is a Bismarck, ND, station, so tune in if youíre there, or Listen Live if youíre anywhere else. †