The Twins had to make room to call-up Joe Mauer at the beginning of the 2004 season and that meant trading away AJ Pierzynski. The team was able to deal Pierzynski for a pool of players that included prospects Francisco Liriano, Boof Bonser, and a relief pitcher named Joe Nathan. In scouting the Giants, the Twins had seen something in a lanky right handed relief pitcher and thought he had a chance to become the team's closer. Nathan more than fulfilled that scouting report and the rest is now history.
On Wednesday night, Joe Nathan broke the record for most saves in the history of the Twins organization. The Twins have a multitude of high level closers that have come through the organization over the years and Nathan had to pass them all on the way to his 255th save.
Twins All-Time Saves Leaders
Joe Nathan: 255
Rick Aguilera: 254
Eddie Guardado: 116
Ron Davis: 108
Jeff Reardon: 104
It was great to see the emotion out of Nathan last night when he completed the save. It has been a rocky road for Nathan and this record meant a lot to him. His long road had gone through may obstacles from starter/relief pitcher with the Giants to elite closer with the Twins to Tommy John surgery and now to this moment. It may seem like a simple record to break but Nathan has seen the type of respect that Aguilera still gets in the Twin Cities. That is the respect level that Nathan has now earned for himself.
The Twins have been lucky enough to have reliable options at the back end of the bullpen for much of the last two decades. If the team had a lead going into the ninth inning, the coaches could count on the game being put in the win column. Nathan provided this same safety net for the Twins with his electric fastball that could be blown by opposing batters.
Nathan may never reach his elite closer level status again but for one night in August the magic was still there on the mound. That same magic that Nathan brought over in a container full of Metrodome dirt. The magic that has followed this team to division championships and an unbelievable Game 163.
The magic has always been there for Mr. Nathan and he has now etched his place in Twins lore, a well deserved place for a great man.