MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Former All-Star Joe Nathan took over the closer’s job for the Minnesota Twins and promptly picked up his first save since April 8.
Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire announced the switch before Saturday’s game against the Kansas City Royals, with Nathan returning to his familiar role and the struggling Matt Capps moving back to be a setup man.
“Kind of do a flip-flop, try to get Capps going again earlier in the ballgame and then let Nathan finish off a few here,” Gardenhire said.
Nathan pitched a scoreless ninth in Minnesota’s 4-3 win, getting a standing ovation as he entered and finished the game.
Capps blew his seventh save chance in 22 tries on Friday night, giving up a two-run homer in the ninth inning to Royals rookie Eric Hosmer in a 2-1 loss. Capps is tied with Carlos Marmol of the Chicago Cubs for the most blown saves in the majors.
After back-to-back uneventful saves in Chicago before the All-Star break, Capps struggled again at home. In his past four appearances at Target Field, Capps has blown two saves, allowing 11 hits, seven earned runs, two walks and two homers in just 2 2-3 innings.
“Disappointed is a very good way to put it,” Capps said. “But it is what it is. That’s about all I’m going to say, I guess.”
Nathan has 250 career saves for the Twins, second most in team history.
“To be back in this role is good,” Nathan said. “It’s where I want to be.”
The right-hander opened the season as the closer and converted three straight saves in his return from elbow surgery.
However, Nathan struggled in mid-April, blowing two straight save chances while lacking his usual velocity and gave way to Capps.
Nathan then went on the disabled list on May 24 with a right flexor muscle strain.
Since returning, Nathan has not allowed a run in his past seven appearances, giving up just two hits in 6 1-3 innings. He’s struck out seven during the stretch, showing improved velocity.
“The ball’s coming out of his hand,” Gardenhire said. “Now you put him in that role and see what happens.”
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