Twins Problems Won’t Be Solved By A Closer Change

If only it were that easy.

The Twins have moved Joe Nathan out of the closer’s role and replaced him with Matt Capps.

At least Ron Gardenhire has an experienced option to make the change, something Tony La Russa and Ozzie Guillen don’t have as they have their own issues with late-inning relievers. It’s a fine line for a manager to walk with his players in switching roles and if Gardenhire didn’t have Capps; if Nathan wasn’t returning from Tommy John surgery, it’s unlikely that he’d have pulled the trigger this quickly.

But the litany of issues affecting the team won’t be solved by Capps pitching the ninth inning instead of the eighth.

The short-handed Twins can’t keep losing games they should win.

Joe Mauer is on the disabled list; they’re not hitting as a team; they have a questionable up-the-middle infield defense; and they’re not taking advantage of good starting pitching that’s not going to last.

Francisco Liriano has been terrible and will get better; but Carl Pavano and Nick Blackburn will come back down to earth. What happens when the starters stop pitching well as well as they have; if the bullpen, aside from Nathan, isn’t as solid as it’s been?

Their offense is better than last in the league in runs scored. Justin Morneau, Jim Thome, Mauer and Delmon Young have the career history that they’ll produce.

Will that be enough to account for mediocre starting pitching, the inexperienced bullpen and unsettled situation at closer?

The prior Twins teams had a continuity; a meshing that allowed them to win with fundamentals and players doing their jobs; if one didn’t do his job, his teammates picked him up.

That’s missing.

You can point to a number of factors beyond Nathan and the lack of offense. The new double play combination and broken leg suffered by Tsuyoshi Nishioka; the gutted bullpen and new configuration; the hangover from putting everything they had into last year only to be swatted away by the Yankees like an inconvenient annoyance—there are no clear-cut answers to be had.

They’ve made a change at closer because that was the obvious thing to do and they had a replacement on hand. But it’s not going to fix their current mess. Not at all.

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