Monday, February 14, 2011

Joe Nathan: To baby or not to baby

It's an exciting week here at NoDak Twins Fan. Not only do pitchers and catchers have their first full work-out at the end of the week, it's also the one year anniversary of this blog's conception.

Throughout the week I will focus on a variety of pitching and catching topics to honor these positions making their return trip to Fort Myers. So make sure to check back all week for updates and new stories

The Sunday issue of the Star Tribune featured a long look at Joe Nathan written by La Velle E. Neal III. The focus of the article was Nathan's come-back trail for Tommy John surgery and one part of the article stuck out to me. Twins Pitching Coach Rick Anderson was quoted as saying he is going to be very cautious with Nathan this spring. First Nathan responded to this quote with gratitude to his coach but he added that he doesn't "want to be babied if I don't need to."

This raises an interesting question, should the Twins "baby" Nathan this season or should the Twins let him off his leash? There are positives and negatives to both sides of this question. Here is a look at both of the perspectives the Twins will have to take into account with Nathan when they enter Spring Training and the 2011 season.

Baby Nathan
1. The Insurance Policy- Matt Capps is getting paid a lot of money by the Twins to be an insurance policy for Joe Nathan. The organization might as well make use of both these arms. Making sure both of these players are rested and healthy will only benefit the team. Nathan doesn't need to pitch in back to back games because Capps is there to take on some of the load.

2. The Experience of Liriano/Neshek- In recent years the Twins have seen that it takes time to get back to full strength when recovering from this surgery. Pat Neshek and Francisco Liriano took their time to recovery from this same procedure. Liriano took more than one season to get back to form. Neshek is still trying to prove that he can be effective again at the major league level.

3. A Nervous Wreck- Twins fans got accustomed to Nathan and his nervous mannerisms on the mound. The problem may be that Nathan has been bottling many of these emotions inside for the last year. That first trip back to the mound will definitely be an adventure. The journey from the bullpen to the mound at Target Field will be much like that of a rookie making his major league debut. A brand new stadium to Nathan and 40,000 excited fans to see the return of the former All-Star; it sounds like a chance for Nathan to be a nervous wreck.

Don't Baby Nathan
1. Last Season with the Twins-  If the Twins fail to pick-up Nathan's option for 2012, this could be his last season with the team. They need to push him to see if he is worth the $12.5 million the team would owe him in 2012. The Twins can buyout Nathan's final year for $2 million. The Twins will have a decision to make and holding Nathan back won't make that decision any easier.

2. A Clean Break-  The ligament that tore in Nathan's throwing elbow broke cleanly. This means the doctors were able to reconnect the original ligament and strengthen it with another tendon from his left wrist. It is rare to be able to do this and Nathan said, "They think it will make it even stronger." That sounds like the exact news that Twins fans want to hear. A stronger Nathan will make the question marks in the bullpen that much easier to handle.

3. His Job to Lose- The Twins and their fans want Nathan to be back to the form he was before the surgery. He will be given plenty of opportunities to show the club that he is the man for the job. Nathan as an $11 million set-up man isn't something that fans will look forward to this year. He is eager to get back on the field and to reach the athletic level that he was at in the past. That being said, the closer's job is his to lose.

What should the Twins do with Nathan? Baby him? Don't baby him?
Leave a comment and let me know.

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