Red Flag 1
It’s great getting off to a 5-2 start, ESPECIALLY when your expected closest competitor, the Angels, stumble out of the gate at 2-4.
But Rangers fans are glass half empty kind of people. There’s always danger lurking in the shadows. So it is that a nice successful homestand has the home fans happy, yet already worried about one thing: Joe Nathan.
The way they see it is this: Were it not for Joe Nathan, Texas would be 7-0 right now instead of 5-2. Nathan has taken both of the Rangers’ 2012 losses thus far and accounted Wednesday for their first blown save of the year. They will also turn to the fact Thursday’s afternoon finale against the Mariners had Mike Adams picking up the save and not Nathan as a sign the Rangers are already regretting their decision to sign the former Twins closer to a two-year deal.
While I’m not thrilled that both losses have come with Nathan in the game, I don’t think it’s time to push the panic button yet, the way the Rangers did two years ago when Frank Francisco blew his first two save opportunities and was replaced in the first week by Neftali Feliz.
In Francisco’s case, he had been somewhat inconsistent in 2009 as well, splitting closing chores with CJ Wilson. The Rangers were in their first year with high expectations and they were quick to pull the trigger on Francisco.
In Nathan’s case, while he has lost both the Rangers games thus far, he also has saved two games, both in impressive fashion. While Wednesday’s blown save and loss was a true clunker (3 runs in one inning pitched), his first loss was in a tie game with one misplaced pitch being punished. He wasn’t brought in to the 9th inning Thursday because it would have been three straight games for him to pitch, with the third being a day game after a night game.
A two-year contract means Nathan will be given some slack by Rangers management to get it together. Meanwhile, Adams and Alexi Ogando remain ready as quality back-up plans should Nathan continue to struggle. With solutions like that, this isn’t a bad problem to have.
The first road series of the year begins tonight in Minnesota. The Twins aren’t expected to do much in 2012, but playing in Minnesota has been problematic for these Rangers over the past couple of years, whether it be at the old Metrodome or the new Target Field. The Twins took two of three at home against the Angels, so Texas can’t take anything for granted.
If there’s a save to be garnered tonight, though, Joe Nathan will get first crack at it.