Minnesota Twins Pitcher, Joe Nathan, was born on November 22, 1974 in Houston, Texas. He was a 1992 graduate of Pine Bush (NY) High School where he played baseball, basketball and ran track. He graduated in 1997 from SUNY Stony Brook with a degree in Business Management. Joe was drafted in 1995 in the 6th round by the Giants.
He played in the minors until 1999 when he played his
fist major league game. He continued to play with the
Giants through 2003 and then was traded to the Twins before
the 2004 season. He was originally slotted to temporarily
close until top prospect Jesse Crain was ready to assume
the role. However, the Twins found his ability to successfully
close the game too hard to give up.
In 2004, Joe made a difficult and surprising transition from good setup man in the National League to dominant closer in the American League. He proved he could deal with the pressure and disappointments of the position, handling himself with great professionalism. The Twins' scouting report on him proved true. He is unimpressive in spring training, but gains arm strength as the season progresses. He increased his velocity from 87 MPH in the spring to 98 MPH in some tense situations late in the summer.
Joe Nathan can throw his fastball up to 98 MPH, and his slider arrives at 88 MPH, giving him two dominant pitches and a way to vary speeds while remaining in power mode. His fastball is somewhat straight, so he has his best success with it when he gets hitters to chase it up in the zone, or when he can locate it on the outside corner. The slider is particularly devastating, because it approaches the velocity of a big league fastball before diving toward a lefthander's feet.
Like many closers, he doesn't have a particularly good pickoff move, but he is quick and athletic enough to hold runners decently. He was drafted by the Giants as a shortstop, so he has good range and fielding instincts. In five big league seasons, he has yet to commit a field error.
In a five-season career, he has compiled a 25-12 record with a 3.59 ERA and 45 saves in 194 games. He made the American League All-Stars in 2003. With the Twins in 2005, he tied for third in league in saves and tied for sixth in games finished (58) and established career-highs in strikeouts.
Joe Nathan has shown he has the pitches and mentality to be an excellent closer for years to come. He proved durable in 2004, when Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was willing to bring him in to get more than three outs, especially during the postseason. Because the Twins try to avoid making their closer warm up multiple times during a game, and are determined to give their relievers proper rest, Joe Nathan should be able to stay healthy and strong in his new role.