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The day after: Joe Nathan10/07/2004 10:05 PM ET
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- The sun rose again Thursday morning, just as Twins closer Joe Nathan thought it would. He was awake almost long enough to see it.
Between extra innings at Yankee Stadium and the long flight home, Nathan didn't get to bed until after 4 a.m. CT. The only regret he took back with him was that he left something out in his apartment upon departing for New York two days ago that produced an odor, keeping him awake an extra hour to air out his place upon return.
"That's probably the hardest part today," Nathan said. "I feel like I got hit by a Mack truck. I'm working on probably five hours [of sleep]."
As for that game Wednesday night, in which the Yankees came back off Nathan in the 12th inning for a 7-6 New York victory, it's out with the trash, too.
"That's what this game is about," he said. "You're going to go through games where you're human. Last night I can't even say was a bad game. I felt like I threw the ball well. The walks hurt me. And that's the biggest disappointment, not the hit I gave up to A-Rod. I tip my hat to him. I felt like I made a few good pitches to him, and he hit a good one. But the walks, I have no excuse for the walks. That's what ended up killing me."
While the second-guessing that accompanied manager Ron Gardenhire's decision to send Nathan back to the mound for his third inning of work lingered for another day, it died down somewhat. Yankees manager Joe Torre backed his counterpart Thursday afternoon, telling reporters he would've done the same thing in that situation.
"You have your closer out there for two innings, and you are not going to pitch him any longer," Torre said, "but then when you score a run, you are certainly going to. You have to pitch another inning."
While Gardenhire admitted he replays all sorts of big plays in his mind after a game, the other options he had besides Nathan left him no regrets about trying to stretch one more inning out of his closer.
His teammates, including the guy whose homer gave Nathan a lead to protect, came to his support.
"I feel for him," said Torii Hunter. "It's a lot of pressure, man, being a closer. I don't think he ever went three innings, right? But at the same time, in the playoffs you have to have that dog in you. You have to suck it up no matter what. I know he was ready. He said, 'Let me go out there.' You have to let him go out there. I think he was a little tired, but at the same time, that's over with."
Instead, the question turned to how much Gardenhire can expect out of Nathan in Game 3 on Friday night. Nathan threw 52 pitches, an incredible amount for a closer not named Mariano Rivera. Combine that with a 10-pitch ninth inning for the save Tuesday, and his total might have warranted two days off if the Twins were still in the regular season.
But since it's the playoffs, both Gardenhire and Nathan insisted he'll be ready if needed.
"Today's a good day off," Nathan said. "I'll use today just to rest. I'll be fine. If needed tomorrow, I'll be up. If it was the regular season, it'd be one thing. We're in the postseason now, so there are no days off. You get as many days off as you need in the winter when you're done, whenever that is. But right now, it's back on. Whatever it takes."
More than willing, Nathan is confident he can handle this kind of workload in spite of Wednesday's collapse. He believes his offseason workout program, including time at a sports training facility, prepares him not just to work several days in a row, but to quickly regain strength following long outings.
"I think it's conditioning. It's what you do in the offseason," he said. "It's being prepared for situations like this, not just thinking, 'I'm a one-inning guy.' As long as you prepare yourself for more than one inning. It's not like you go into your offseason workout and condition yourself to go out there and pitch three outs. You prepare yourself to be in ballgames however long they need you. For me, all the workouts in the offseason, that's what it comes down to: To be ready for situations down the road.
"I think that's probably the most important thing as a reliever is how you recover, how you're able to bounce back after long outings. In the past, I've basically surprised myself sometimes with how good I felt after multi-inning outings."
Save for those nine consecutive pitches out of the strike zone, he wouldn't feel bad about his last one.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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