BALTIMORE -- Rangers closer Joe Nathan had a couple of rough outings early in the season but went into Monday's game against the Orioles having not allowed a run in his last eight games. He was also 7-for-8 in save opportunities.
Nathan's success is in direct contrast to 14 other teams who have had to change closers either in Spring Training or once the season started. Mariano Rivera, Drew Storen, Huston Street, Brian Wilson, Joakim Soria, Andrew Bailey and Ryan Madson are among the closers who are on the disabled list. Carlos Marmol, Heath Bell and Jordan Walden are among those who have been taken out of the role because of ineffectiveness.
"Every season, we see volatility in the closer's role, but this season seems unprecedented with the turnover, what with the injuries and then the carousel," Rangers assistant general manager Thad Levine said. "We certainly consider ourselves fortunate that we have someone we can count on to get us the last three outs in a game."
Nathan was one of several closers available this offseason, either by trade or free agency. He was one the Rangers targeted from the beginning, as they steered away from Madson, Bell and Jonathan Papelbon, showing little interest in them.
"We bought into the track record and bought into the makeup," Levine said of Nathan. "Joe, in the period of time he was a closer, has been one of the most dominant closers in the game, and our research showed his makeup was a big part of that."
Pitching the ninth inning as the closer has proven to be physically demanding. But it can also be mentally demanding, and Nathan has proven he can deal with that part of it.
"It could be mentally tough if you let it," Nathan said. "It all depends on the person and the makeup. It can be if you put more pressure on yourself than you need. The only difference is you are the last line of defense. It's the ninth inning and the game is either going to be won or lost, and most of the time they're not going to take you out of there until one or the other happens.
"You have to keep it simple. Don't think it's all on your shoulders. There are nine innings. It's just one inning, and you have to put up a zero like the other guys in front of you. It's not any different."