SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers want closer Joe Nathan pitching well in September and October. They couldn't care less about February and March.
So watch for the Rangers to take it slowly with their 38-year-old reliever this spring. The first sign of that is Nathan is doing his throwing in the bullpen and not doing live batting practice against hitters like the rest of the staff. It's just a hint that the Rangers want to be careful with Nathan, especially since Spring Training is a week longer this year because of the World Baseball Classic.
Nathan will probably start throwing to live hitters sometime next week and isn't expected to pitch in early Cactus League games.
"It's just a longer spring so why push it now," Nathan said.
Nathan was 37-for-40 in save opportunities for the Rangers last year and finished with a 2.80 ERA while opponents hit .231 off him. He had two blown saves and a 4.15 ERA in September, but Nathan said that doesn't necessarily mean he wore down at the end of the season.
"To say I was tired? No," Nathan said. "I felt the same in September as I did in April. You see certain hitters a lot during the course of the season and if you make a mistake, they're going to hit it because they have seen you more. You leave a pitch in the wrong spot, you have less of a chance to get away with it in September than in April."