When news came out Wednesday that Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington had decided to limit the usage of his closer, Joe Nathan, to save opportunities only, it was an interesting thing to hear from a guy who has used Nathan freely in many situations — save opportunities, tied games, blowouts. You name it, Nathan has done it for the Rangers this year.
But after throwing 62 pitches in a two-day span on Aug. 1 and 2 against the Los Angeles Angels — both outings with shaky results — Nathan had to get a cortisone shot in his shoulder. Of course, this is after he missed the entire 2010 and part of 2011 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, not to mention the fact he's 37 years old.
So the morning of a day game in Boston, after he'd made his first appearance since taking almost a week off and earned a quick 12-pitch save the previous night, Washington made the declaration: Save opportunities only.
A few hours later, Nathan was back on the mound trying to protect a one-run lead in the bottom of the ninth to win a road series in Fenway Park. And he was absolute nails. Nathan did give a one-out double, but he got out of the inning with two straight strikeouts on his trademark nasty slider.
He says his shoulder feels brand new, and judging by the past two days, it seems he's right.