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Updated: July 16th, 2011 4:12pm
After 7 blown saves, Matt Capps out, Joe Nathan in as Twins' closer

After 7 blown saves, Matt Capps out, Joe Nathan in as Twins' closer

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Matt Capps' latest blown save cost him his closing job.

Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire told reporters before Saturday's game against Kansas City that Joe Nathan will take over as closer immediately, with Capps moving to a set-up role.

"Obviously, 'Capper's been kind of fighting it, and we want to get him right," Gardenhire said. "He's a big part of our bullpen, and he was one pitch away from closing a game out last night, but he made a bad pitch."

Pitching coach Rick Anderson informed both pitchers of the decision late Friday night, shortly after Eric Hosmer's two-out, two-run home run off of Capps lifted the Royals to a 2-1 win.

"I know how tough it is in this role," said Nathan, who has 250 career saves, including three in April before blowing two in a row and agreeing with coaches it was time to give Capps a chance.

"There's going to be times where you just don't have your stuff. You leave the ball over the plate, and it's definitely not an easy game. It's not an easy league. Guys do damage with balls that we make mistakes on. So, it's not the end of it for (Capps). He's got plenty more years to go."

Friday marked Capps' seventh blown save in 22 opportunities this season (31.8%) and once again came at Target Fied, where fans have been increasingly quick to boo the 27-year-old's every mistake.

"It's no secret it's been a tough go, but it is what it is," Capps said. "I'll figure it out. When it's all said and done, I'm still pretty young in this game and certainly don't know everything. I'll figure it out. I'll get it worked out and keep fighting."

Until then, it's up Nathan, who has a 1.23 earned-run average in 7 1/3 innings over eight appearances since a stint on the disabled list with elbow problems ended on June 24.

"I figured it would be a matter of time before (Nathan) was throwing well, which -- I mean, you're talking about Joe Nathan, a guy who's been the best in baseball for a long time," Capps said. "He's been throwing the (expletive) out of the ball. So, he certainly deserves an opportunity to show that he's healthy and back out there."

Before going on the DL, Nathan had a 7.63 ERA and nine walks in 15 1/3 innings, forcing Gardenhire to use him mostly in mop-up situations. Rehabilitation stint with Single-A Fort Myers and Triple-A Rochester helped break up scar tissue in Nathan's reconstructed elbow.

"It's night and day for myself," Nathan said. "That's a plus -- at least going out there and feeling like myself. If the velocity's not there, so be it. ...

"Everything feels like it has more life on it. So, I definitely trust myself a lot more. To be back in this role, it's good. It's what I want to be doing. At the same time, it doesn't change what our approach is, what we're trying to do, and that's win games."

For now, Capps will try to do his part as one of two eighth-inning options, along with left-hander Glen Perkins.

Gardenhire said Capps' struggles on Friday were a product of "just overthrowing the ball, which is mechanical for than anything else." But Capps said neither he nor Anderson have been able to diagnose any mechanical issues.

"I've looked. Andy's looked," Capps said. "(Expletive), I'm tired, but who's not? I think the workload early in the year has finally caught up a little bit. But I'll get through it. (Expletive), if I keep the ball down and get a lot of movement and not too much everything else, I should have been fine the last couple weeks. I'll go back to that and I'll be fine."

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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