I think that about says it. Joe Nathan has an elbow ligament tear, and his 2010 season is in jeopardy. The Twins, who have made some nice moves to put themselves into contention during the first year in Target Field, are now likely to be without a proven closer.
Of course, the season isn’t over. There are plenty of people who think that closers are dramatically overvalued and that the loss of even a good one like Nathan won’t be too painful (although my poor fantasy baseball team can’t say the same thing — I’m now in pretty deep trouble in the saves category). And of course, the pitchers battling for a spot in the bullpen now find themselves with another available roster spot to compete for.
Who will get the nod in the 9th inning for the Twins this year? I don’t think there’s a clear answer, and perhaps the Twins will use a ‘closer-by-committee’ arrangement. I would actually favor that, as it would allow the team to simply let matchups dictate who gets the rock in the 9th rather than relying on the ‘we have a closer and we’re going to use him no matter what’ mentality that dominates the major leagues. Of course, it is also possible that the Twins will watch the contestants closely this spring and emerge from Spring Training with a replacement closer ready to role — perhaps Jon Rauch?
Obviously this will be a significant topic of conversation throughout the Spring. Hopefully all is not lost for Nathan’s 2010 season — but it certainly doesn’t look good.