MINNEAPOLIS -- Joe Nathan showed up early at Target Field on Friday, his first full day back in a city where he spent eight years as the Twins closer. Now he is with the Rangers trying to work through some early-season troubles that have left him 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA and two saves in his first four games.
Nathan, meeting with a large group of Minnesota reporters before Friday's game, said he still feels strong and healthy. Nathan is two years removed from Tommy John surgery and said his arm feels strong. His velocity on his fastball is back to 93-94 mph. He said now he needs to sharpen his other pitches, particularly his slider.
"I'm just trying to get back to where I was before the surgery," Nathan said. "I feel so good, when I get into trouble I feel too strong. I need to hone everything and sharpen everything. The last time I just couldn't get my slider where I wanted it. I got to get back to finishing off my slider like I should."
Nathan had Thursday off after pitching back-to-back games on Tuesday and Wednesday. Mike Adams earned the save in Thursday's 5-3 victory but manager Ron Washington said Nathan is back as closer on Friday night.
Washington said he still won't hesitate to use Nathan in back-to-back games even though both of his losses have come in the second game of back-to-back outings.
"The only way I don't throw him back-to-back is if he labors and throws a ton of pitches," Washington said. "I'm not going to baby anybody, at least not at this point of the season."
Nathan, who began his career with the Giants, was with the Twins from 2004-11. A four-time All-Star, he is the Twins' all-time leader in saves as well as ERA, strikeouts per nine innings and lowest opponents' batting average among pitchers with at least 400 innings.
He signed a two-year contract with the Rangers in the offseason.
"It's never easy to leave a place like Minnesota," Nathan said. "There were a lot of people here who were good to me and my family. But when Texas called, it made it easier knowing that it was Texas.
"I'm at the point of my career where there is only one thing on my mind and that's getting to the postseason and where these guys have been the past two years. I've done a lot and seen a lot but the one thing that I want to do most has alluded me. All you can do is hope you get a chance to help get back there. We still have to bust our tails, it's not going to be easy."