With one pitch one strongest parts of the Twins team, the bullpen, has the possibility of becoming weak in a hurry. As soon as Joe Nathan let go of the pitch everyone in the stadium knew that something was wrong. He didn't finish the pitch and he came off of the mound in an awkward fashion. All of Twins Territory will hold their breath for the day as they wait to hear the results of the tests that Nathan will undergo back in Minnesota.
Following a rough postseason in 2009, Nathan was forced to go under the knife to remove bone spurs and other particles from his elbow. The initial diagnoses from doctors is that the soreness in his elbow has been caused by the breaking of scar tissue from the above mentioned surgery. Hopefully this is the case and Nathan will be at full strength for Opening Day in four weeks.
If this is a more serious injury and Nathan has to miss extensive time, there are a variety of options that manager Ron Gardenhire will have to look at. The following is a quick run-down of those that would be next in line to be the Twins closer:
1. Jon Rauch- He has the most career saves on the Twins besides Nathan. He is also the only other pitcher that has been named a teams closer (even if it was only the Nationals).
2. Matt Guerrier- Has been a very good set-up man for the Twins over the past few seasons. He has a variety of pitches that would make the transition easier for him over some of the other pitchers.
3. Pat Neshek- Before his elbow injury a few seasons ago, Neshek would have been the handsdown choice to fill in for Nathan. He still has a chance but it depends a lot on how he performs in the rest of Spring Training.
4. Jesse Crain- After the up and down season that Crain had last year it would be hard to imagine him getting the role of closer to start the 2010 season. He has shown flashes of brilliance in the past so it would be possible for him to fit the part of closer for a short period of time.
5. Jose Mijares- Probably the best left-handed option the Twins have out of the bullpen. If Nathan is seriously injured look for him to fill-in in the closer's role when a left-handed section of the line-up is due in the 9th.