CHICAGO -- The consensus of baseball's preseason prognosticators was that while the Twins had improved their lineup, the bullpen was going to suffer because of the loss of closer Joe Nathan because of season-ending Tommy John surgery on his elbow. So far, so good for Gardenhire's revamped relief core.
As a group, Twins relievers had posted a 1.65 ERA with 12 strikeouts and zero walks in 16 1/3 innings heading into Saturday's game. New closer Jon Rauch was three-for-three in save opportunities. Rauch closed the door once again on Saturday against the White Sox, blanking them for save No. 4 in a 2-1 victory.
"When you lose a guy of Nathan's ability, that's a big guy," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "You're only as good as the back end of your bullpen.
"We've had to change our bullpen around to get this done. So far, it's doing OK."
After the news broke that Nathan's season was over, Gardenhire initially said he would go with a bullpen-by-committee approach. However, he shortly thereafter handed the closer's role to Rauch. He says he had his eye on Rauch all along.
"We waited as long as we could [to name a closer] in case we brought in some outside help," Gardenhire said.
"We want stability out there. We don't want guys pitching all over the place. You want guys to know where they're at. It's really a pretty good thing when guys know when they're going to pitch."