Setting club saves record an 'honor' for Nathan

Setting club saves record an 'honor' for Nathan

Setting club saves record an 'honor' for Nathan
MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins closer Joe Nathan became the club's all-time save leader with his 255th save on Wednesday, passing Rick Aguilera, who the set the previous record with 254 saves from 1989-98.

Nathan, who picked up his ninth save of the season in the Minnesota's 5-2 win over Boston, said he was honored to break Aguilera's franchise record, especially after missing last year following Tommy John surgery.

"I think with the surgery and everything, and all the bumps in the road, just makes it mean even more to me to be able to come back and accomplish this," said Nathan, who was presented with a No. 255 jersey after the game. "But more importantly, we got a win. We needed a win, and that's the most important thing."

Nathan said he talked to Aguilera about the record last weekend when the former closer was in town as part of the 1991 World Series champion Twins reunion. He added it was special to catch the ceremonial first pitch from Aguilera at Target Field on Friday, and that he has nothing but respect for the former closer who helped Minnesota to the '91 title.

"To get No. 255 is obviously an honor to me to pass such a great pitcher in Aggie," Nathan said. "He's a great human being, and I had a chance to know him. He's an outstanding person. To be able to take over his record means a lot to me. And to stick around this organization is a pretty cool thing."

Nathan, 36, has a 5.12 ERA this year, but has looked much more like his old self since coming off the disabled list on June 24 after suffering a setback related to his Tommy John surgery. The right-hander has a 2.76 ERA and six saves in 18 appearances since his return, and has impressed manager Ron Gardenhire.

"He's been through an awful lot, and there's a lot of people in the baseball circles that said at his age he probably wouldn't be able to come back and be anywhere close to the person he's been," Gardenhire said. "But I think through a lot of hard work and dedication on his part, and a few ups and downs, he's getting back to being that dominant closer again."

Nathan had just one career save in four years with the Giants before getting traded to the Twins in 2003. He has been able to establish himself as an elite closer in Minnesota, as he has a career 2.10 ERA with the club and his 88.9 save percentage (255-for-287) ranks second behind Yankees closer Mariano Rivera (89.2) among active players with at least 190 opportunities.

"I got an opportunity there that a door opened up and that I would get a shot to close, and things just kind of took off from there," said Nathan, who became the closer in his first year with the club in '04. "To go from a starter, a long relief guy, and then a setup guy with the Giants to closing was definitely a big jump for me."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.