During the regular season, the Closer Hot Seat will be your go-to guide for Major League Baseball's bullpen chatter. During spring training, KFFL's Fantasy Baseball Bullpen Session will get you tuned up for the fantasy baseball saves chase. Camp happenings don't always impact closer battles, but if there's MLB news you should know for your fantasy baseball draft, you'll find it here.
Joe Nathan struggled in his Monday outing, giving up three runs on two hits, including a three-run tater. He had trouble getting the ball down - an issue that if not corrected would magnify concerns over his fly-ball percentage over the last few years.
The Texas Rangers' right-hander is still trying to regain the consistent level of velocity he had before Tommy John surgery in 2010. He touched 94 mph on a park gun last week. Sure, sometimes the readings can be generous on them, but he's usually sitting somewhere around 90 mph at this point in spring.
Nathan's environmental risks and the presence of two setup men with closer skills or experience (Mike Adams and Koji Uehara) will surely make some drafters hesitant to call Nathan's name. But he's assured of the gig heading into 2012, and regaining his giddy-up in the low to mid-90s will mitigate the concerns over his loft allowance, which is not always a problem with the small sample size a closer logs.
He probably still has one or two more years left of healthy skills for a team that figures to win frequently. There's still plenty to like here.
Jim Johnson (back) made his spring training debut Wednesday by giving up three runs on four hits in an inning. The Baltimore Orioles were just happy to see him on a mound. His fastball topped out at 91 mph, and 12 of his 22 pitches were strikes. Johnson will likely take two days off before appearing on Saturday, and he eventually hopes to pitch back-to-back days.
Buck Showalter hesitated to give the stopper label to the worm burner, but that was a result of him not yet appearing in Grapefruit League action; the scales tip in his favor, ahead of Kevin Gregg and Matt Lindstrom. He still has plenty of time to cement that status.
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