Rangers’ Nathan back in dominant form
ARLINGTON, Texas — It’s not the saves Joe Nathan is getting that’s been the big surprise for the Texas closer.
It’s the velocity that’s coming with the pitches from the 37-year-old that been the big revelation.
“They might have put one of those bionic things in his arm,” Texas manager Ron Washington joked.
The velocity is no joking matter for batters though as Nathan mowed through three Oakland batters Wednesday night by striking out the side. It’s the first time he’s converted a save that way since Aug. 12, 2009. He did it Wednesday with a fastball that was consistently 95 to 96 mph.
That’s velocity Nathan, who has 269 saves, hasn’t seen in a while.
“I’m used to throwing 91, 92 mph and now to tip it up a little more the arm had to get used to it,” said Nathan. “I probably hit it (the velocity) in ’08 but not as consistent. I think now I’m much more consistent. This is more ’07 or ’06. That’s the last time I was this consistent.”
Nathan said he’s not surprised by the velocity’s return. He’s two years removed from Tommy John surgery and has put in a lot of work trying to keep his arm and shoulder in shape. He also attributes some of the success to the return of muscle memory.
“I’m happy that it’s back,” he said. “Velocity is not the most important thing out there, location is. It definitely doesn’t hurt to have the velocity because you can get away with a lot more mistakes.”
Mistakes have been rare for Nathan lately. He blew a save April 10 but has missed another opportunity since then.
“He’s back,” Washington said. “He had tremendous stuff last night. As a matter of fact, each time he’s been taking the ball since he the first two games of the season it’s been coming and sharper and sharper and sharper.”
Josh Hamilton, who has the longest hitting streak in the majors at 16 games, wasn’t in the lineup Thursday.
Washington has been giving regulars time off and it was Hamilton’s turn Thursday.
Washington said he decided to make the move at home because the Rangers were coming off a high stress road trip.
“We had a road trip from hell and the fatigue factor hit us here,” Washington said. “If it would have hit us on the road, I would have done it on the road.”