08/29/12 11:30 PM ET
Bauman: For Rangers, the 'pen is also mighty
By Mike Bauman / MLB.com
"They're all pretty good," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "That's what it is. They're all pretty good. They got good veteran leadership down there for the young kids. They young guys have gotten better as the year has progressed. And those veterans down there have a lot to do with it, keeping them focused. Mike Adams is what he is, [Alexi] Ogando is what he is, Joe Nathan is what he is. Robbie Ross is trying to find out what he is. [Michael] Kirkman is trying to find out how consistent he can be. Mark Lowe has had success already at the Major League level. They're pretty good."One bit of good news Wednesday night came from reliever Koji Uehara, who returned from the DL three days ago. Uehara needed only 17 pitches to record five outs. "That's important," Washington said. "He's going to be a big piece for us as we move forward." Adams has been asked to hold 25 save situations for the Rangers this season and he has succeeded 24 times. Nathan as the closer has been so good that he has moved into the rarefied, historical company and beyond. He has passed Mariano Rivera as the all-time leader in save percentage among pitchers with 200-plus saves. Rivera is at 89.28 percent. But Nathan is at 89.72 percent. And, after returning from Tommy John surgery, Nathan, at age 37, appears to be as good as ever. He has tied the Rangers' record, converting 25 consecutive save opportunities. Even more recently, he has retired the last 14 batters he has faced, 10 of those on strikeouts. "I think he's as good right now as he was on his best day in Minnesota," Maddon says. "I'm talking about not only velocity, but command, too. He's throwing his fastball where he wants to consistently. And on top of that, his breaking ball has always been good, but I can see a real confidence about it now. He's on top of his game, as good as he's ever been." What makes Nathan this good? Washington holds up five fingers. "Five pitches," the manager says. "You can't sit on one. That's what's made him effective. I'm not surprised by anything that Joe is doing. We saw his arm strength in Spring Training. It was just a matter of him getting a feel for his pitches. "He gave us trouble when we played against him when he was with Minnesota. He's got five pitches. He can throw them all for strikes. He's been in championship runs before. So nothing that goes on out on the field affects him. He's been in this before. So he just goes out there and does what he knows how to do -- get outs. It's not like some closer that hasn't pitched in championships series before. He did it six or seven years in Minnesota. Been there, done that. He doesn't get fazed. And he's got five pitches." And so the Rangers, a team justifiably known for its offensive prowess, can now stop people cold with a lockdown bullpen. The news does not seem particularly encouraging for the rest of the American League. Referring to the AL West race, someone pointed out to Washington that second-place Oakland "is not going away." "Neither are we," said the manager without missing a beat.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.