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Joe Nathan

Minnesota Twins — No. 36
Relief pitcher
Born: November 22, 1974 (1974-11-22) (age 35)
Houston, Texas
Bats: Right Throws: Right 
MLB debut
April 21, 1999 for the San Francisco Giants
Career statistics
(through October 4, 2009)
Win-Loss     46-22
Earned run average     2.75
Strikeouts     716
Saves     247
Career highlights and awards
  • 4x All-Star selection (2004, 2005, 2008, 2009)
  • Joseph W. Haynes Award (Twins' Pitcher of the Year) (2008)
  • Twins single season saves record (47)

Joseph Michael Nathan (born November 22, 1974 in Houston, Texas) is a Major League Baseball closer for the Minnesota Twins. He bats and throws right-handed, and stands at a height of 6 feet 4 inches (1.93 m). He started playing baseball as a shortstop in high school, and played the same position in college. However, he became a pitcher after the San Francisco Giants drafted him in 1995. After working his way through the minor leagues, he alternated between spots in the rotation and the bullpen. He spent a few seasons splitting time between the majors and the minors before having a breakout season as a relief pitcher in 2003. Nathan joined the Minnesota Twins in 2004 and became their closing pitcher. He continues to hold that position and is one of the top closers in baseball.[1]


High school career

Joe Nathan attended Pine Bush High School in Pine Bush, New York, where he played basketball and baseball and ran track. He graduated in 1992.[2] However, only Division III colleges showed even minimal interest in having him play for their program.[3] Nathan ended up playing college baseball at Stony Brook University as a result of his baseball coach and Stony Brook's coach having a history; Pine Bush assistant baseball coach Jeff Masionet and Stony Brook baseball coach Matt Senk played college baseball together at State University of New York at Cortland.[3]

College career

Nathan played college baseball as a shortstop at Division III SUNY Stony Brook (now Division I).[4] He became a two-time Academic All-American, and graduated as a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society.[5] During his tenure there, professional baseball scouts began to notice his good arm and pitcher's body, and on a day where a game was rained out, "literally someone from every organization" came to watch him pitch.[4] He was then drafted in the sixth round (159th overall) from the amateur draft by the San Francisco Giants in 1995,[4] and signed on June 2, a day after being drafted.[6] His college jersey number has since been retired,[7] and he has been given the University Medal, the highest recognition given by the university.[5] Nathan also played for the Fairfield Stallions in the New England Collegiate Baseball League in 1994.

In August 2008, Nathan made a $500,000 lead gift to the Department of Athletics in support of the construction of a new baseball field at Stony Brook University. In recognition of the gift from the Joe Nathan Charitable Foundation (, the State University of New York has approved that the new field will be named "Joe Nathan Field."[8]

Minor league career

Nathan began his minor league career playing Class A ball for the Bellingham Giants.[9] After an unsuccessful year at the plate, the Giants tried to convert Nathan into a pitcher, but he refused to do that and left the game.[4] He went back to Stony Brook for a year, graduating with a degree in business management.[2] Nathan thought about his future and after graduation, decided to return to the Giants organization.[10] Now a pitcher, He developed into a standout pitching prospect. After a season with the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, he played at both the A and AA levels (the San Jose Giants and Shreveport Captains) in 1998 as a starter.[9] During his tenure with San Jose, he started 22 games, earned an ERA of 3.32 with 118 strikeouts, and led the Giants to the California League Championship.[11] He played two games in Shreveport in 1999 before receiving his promotion to the big-league club in 1999.[9]

MLB career

San Francisco Giants

1999-2002 seasons

Joe Nathan was recalled from Shreveport on April 20, taking the roster spot of Barry Bonds, who was sent to the disabled list after undergoing surgery on his left elbow.[12] He made his major league debut the next day on April 21, 1999, pitching seven shutout innings and winning his first major-league decision in a 4-0 win against the Florida Marlins.[13] He split time the rest of the season between the AAA-affiliate Fresno Grizzlies and the Giants, posting a 6-4 record at AAA and a 7-4 record with an ERA of 4.18 at the major league level. Nathan also earned his first career save on May 16 against the Houston Astros.[9]

After playing in the minors for a short time in 2000, Nathan spent most of the season in the majors, finishing the season with a 5-2 record and hitting two home runs as a hitter.[6] However he struggled with his control by walking 63 batters in 93.1 innings, and ended up with a 5.21 ERA.[6] He spent two stints on the disabled list: from May 17 to June 6 due to right shoulder tendinitis, and from July 14 to August 18 due to right shoulder inflammation.[14] At the end of the season, Nathan had arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder, and as a result spent the 2001 season in the minors.[11]

During the 2001 season, Nathan spent part of the season at AAA Fresno, but had a disappointing ERA of 7.77, and some time at AA Shreveport, where he played both as a starter and a reliever.[9] He finished the season a combined 3-11 with an ERA over 7. The 2002 season saw him earn an ERA of over 5 at Fresno with a 6-12 record.[9] Despite Nathan's struggles after the surgery, he eventually reached the majors in September and pitched 3.2 scoreless innings in relief for the Giants.

2003 season

At the start of the season he was back with the Giants as a reliever. This transition came with marriage as well; Nathan married Lisa Lemoncelli, his girlfriend of five years, in November 2002.[15] The 2003 season was a breakout year for Nathan, as he started the season with 23 scoreless innings en route to a 12-4 record in his first season as a reliever.[6] His 78 appearances put him high on the list of most-used pitchers for the season, and he allowed no runs in a span of 15 appearances from July 18 to August 20.[16] He had 12 wins as a reliever, the most during that season.[11] The San Francisco Giants won the NL West by 15.5 games and faced the Wild Card winner Florida Marlins in the NLDS. Nathan however was hit hard in the playoffs; He blew a save in his first postseason appearance and the Giants were upset by the Marlins in four games.

Minnesota Twins

2004 season

Nathan was traded from the Giants to the Minnesota Twins on November 16, 2003. The Giants sent Nathan along with pitchers Boof Bonser and Francisco Liriano in exchange for catcher A.J. Pierzynski and cash.[6] The Twins decided to make Nathan their closer for the 2004 season. This was a risky move, as Nathan had only one save in six opportunities as a Giant.[17] Nathan had the inside track on the job, competing against J.C. Romero and Jesse Crain. He was signed to a three-year deal on March 4, 2004 and agreed to an intentionally incentive-laden contract with a base salary of $440,000.[18] Nathan won the closing job in Spring Training, and started off the season strong. He allowed no runs in 20 appearances, from April 15 to June 4, and earned 14 saves during the same period.[19] Nathan was also named the American League Co-Player of the Week for the week of May 10, after pitching four innings for the week, earning 4 saves in 4 appearances and facing the minimum number of batters in each appearance.[19] His credentials for the first half of the season, converting 23 saves in 24 opportunities with a 1.19 ERA in 26 appearances, led to his first All-Star appearance in the 2004 MLB All-Star Game.[20] He was the only Twin to earn a spot in the game and pitched in the seventh inning, getting Bobby Abreu to strike out, Mike Lowell to fly out, and Miguel Cabrera to strike out.[21] Nathan continued to post impressive numbers throughout the rest of the season, while allowing no runs between June 9 and August 18, and between August 25 and September 16.[19] Nathan finished the 2004 season with 44 saves in 47 opportunities, and an ERA of 1.62.[6] The Twins won the AL Central division and faced the New York Yankees in the ALDS. Nathan picked up his first postseason save in Game 1, but blew his second opportunity in Game 2 as the Twins went on to lose in four games. Nathan's outstanding season earned him MVP and Cy Young votes, finishing fourth in Cy Young voting and 12th in MVP voting.[6] With the end of his first year with the Twins came the birth of his first son, Cole, on November 9, 2004.[2]

2005 season

During spring training in 2005, Nathan signed a two year deal that includes a club option for 2008.[22] He picked up from where he left off in 2004, allowing no earned runs in 15 appearances from April 5 to May 10.[23] He also had streaks of 13 and 12 consecutive save opportunities converted between April and July.[23] As a result, Nathan was named the American League Player of the Week for the week of June 27.[23] Nathan earned another All-Star appearance in 2005 for his pitching in the first half of the season. Although his record was 1-3 with a 3.57 ERA in 37 appearances, he had struck out 43 batters in 35.1 innings pitched, and lead the AL with 23 saves in 25 opportunities.[24] Nathan pitched in the 2005 MLB All-Star Game alongside fellow pitcher Johan Santana. Pitching the eighth inning of the game, he got Morgan Ensberg to pop out for the first out, then gave out a double to Moisés Alou. Felipe López singled, and Nathan was able to get Miguel Cabrera and Luis Castillo out, but not before Alou scored.[25] Nathan had a brilliant second half as he went 6-1 with 18 saves in 20 chances, and posted an ERA of 1.76. He finished the season with a 7-4 record, a 2.70 ERA, 43 saves in 48 opportunities, and 94 strikeouts.[6] Nathan also became the third pitcher in club history to post consecutive 40 save seasons.[23] The Twins however missed the playoffs.

2006 season

Before the 2006 season began, Nathan participated in the 2006 World Baseball Classic as one of the 30 players selected for the Team USA roster.[26] He played the first game, a 2-0 win against Mexico, striking out the side while allowing one hit.[27] He also pitched the 4-3 victory against Japan, again throwing a shutout inning.[28] Nathan went on to pitch the last game for the United States in the ninth inning against Mexico, again not allowing a run and striking out two.[29]

As the regular 2006 season began for the Twins, Nathan started off strong, allowing no runs from the start of the season to April 25.[30] He also converted 10 straight save opportunities from April 11 to June 17.[30] On June 24, Nathan recorded his one hundredth career save against the Chicago Cubs, and 99th save with Minnesota.[30] Four days later he got save number 101, his hundredth save with Minnesota against the Los Angeles Dodgers, becoming the fifth pitcher in Twins history to achieve that mark.[30] Despite putting up great numbers during the 2006 season, Nathan was not selected to the All-Star Game. He continued to pitch well throughout the season, passing Eddie Guardado for second on the Twins' all-time save list when he earned his 117th save against the Detroit Tigers on September 9.[30] Nathan was also given the Major League Baseball Delivery Man of the Month award for July, going 9 for 9 in save opportunities and posting a 0.75 ERA for the month.[31] He finished the season with some of his best numbers to date: a 7-0 record, a 1.58 ERA, 95 strikeouts, 36 saves, an 18th place finish in MVP voting, and a fifth place finish in Cy Young voting.[6] His 61 games finished were also good for the AL lead and opponents batted just .158 against him, a career high.[6] With 36 saves in 38 opportunities, Nathan also became the first pitcher for the organization to earn 35 saves in three straight seasons.[30] The Twins stormed back to win the division on the last day of the regular season, but were swept by the Oakland Athletics in the ALDS as Nathan made one scoreless appearance.

2007 season

Nathan continued to dominate as the Twins' closer for the 2007 season. He had a stretch between July and August where he gave up just two earned runs and converted all 12 save chances. Once again despite Nathan's numbers, he was not picked for the All-Star team. Nathan finished the year by converting 37 of 41 save opportunities with a record of 4-2 and an ERA of 1.88. The Twins however had a disappointing season and missed the playoffs.

On September 25, 2007, Nathan was named as one of 10 finalists for the "DHL Delivery Man of the Year Award," the third year in a row that he has been a finalist.[32] On October 29, the Twins exercised Nathan's club option for 2008.[33]

2008 season

Though Nathan was slated to make $6 million in 2008,[22] on March 24, 2008, the Minnesota Twins re-signed Nathan to a four-year, $47 million contract through 2011. The deal also includes a $12.5 million club option for 2012 with a $2 million buyout.[34]

Nathan started the season with 13 consecutive saves but blew his first save of the season on May 27 by giving up a three-run inside-the-park home run on a misplayed fly ball by teammate Delmon Young; however, Nathan got two outs to end the 9th inning and the Twins went on to win the game.[35] By converting 27 of 29 save opportunities prior to the All-Star break, Nathan was selected as a reserve player for the American League in the 2008 Major League Baseball All-Star Game.[36] Nathan finished the year with 39 saves and a career best 1.33 ERA.[37][38] He also had a career high six blown saves and surrendered his first career walk-off home run to Victor Martinez on September 16.[39] Nathan ranked seventh in the majors in saves and had the lowest ERA of the top 30 save leaders in 2008.[40] Despite Nathan's success, the Twins narrowly missed the playoffs by losing the tie-breaker game against division rival Chicago White Sox.

2009 season

Nathan had a strong season, as he was selected as an All-Star for the 2009 MLB All Star Game, and he finished the year with 2.10 ERA with 47 saves in 52 opportunities. He shared honors for the AL Rolaids Relief Man award with Mariano Rivera. However, Nathan did not fare as well in the postseason; in Game 2 of the American League Division Series against the New York Yankees, with the Twins leading 3-1 in the bottom of the ninth inning, Nathan blew the save when he surrendered a game-tying two-run home run to Alex Rodriguez. It was the first home run Nathan had allowed with men on base all year. The Yankees later won the game in the 11th inning and swept the series. On October 11, 2009, after the Twins lost the final game at the Metrodome (a 4-1 playoff loss to the Yankees that eliminated them), Nathan took a pile of dirt from the mound as a keepsake from the Metrodome. He said saying goodbye wasn't easy to do at all because he knew it was his last time ever there.

2010 season

On March 9, 2010, it was reported that Nathan has a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament and may require Tommy John surgery, which would sideline him for the entire 2010 season.[41]

Personal life

  • Has a wife, Lisa (Lemoncelli) and two kids: a son Cole (11/9/04) and a daughter Riley (4/4/07).
  • Joe has a foundation, Joe Nathan Charitable Foundation, which is to be named “Save It”, it helps to raise money and awareness for many different charities around.
  • Resides in Knoxville, Tennessee in the off season.

See also


  1. ^ Cliff Corcoran. "Closer rankings, from No. 1 to 30". Retrieved 2009-08-24. 
  2. ^ a b c "Joe Nathan Player Information : Biography and Career Highlights". Retrieved 2007-08-21. 
  3. ^ a b "Joe Nathan: Face of the Twins". Retrieved 2007-08-21. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Beyond Tonight - Joe Nathan". Retrieved 2007-08-21. 
  5. ^ a b "Stony Brook University Council". Retrieved 2007-08-21. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Joe Nathan Statistics -". Retrieved 2007-08-21. 
  7. ^ "Nathan, Stony Brook benefited from each other".,0,3120453.column?coll=ny-sports-headlines. Retrieved 2007-08-21. 
  8. ^ "Stony Brook University Announces Lead Gift from Major League Baseball All-Star And SBU Alumnus, Joe Nathan". Stony Brook University. Retrieved 2009-08-17. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f "Joe Nathan Baseball Statistics". Retrieved 2007-08-21. 
  10. ^ "Conversation with Joe Nathan". Subway Chatter. Retrieved 2009-08-25. 
  11. ^ a b c "San Jose Giants baseball club". Retrieved 2007-08-21. 
  12. ^ "Official site of the Minnesota Twins : 1999 Career Highlights". Retrieved 2007-08-21. 
  13. ^ "Joe Nathan 1999 Pitching Gamelogs -". Retrieved 2007-08-21. 
  14. ^ "Official site of the Minnesota Twins : 2000 Career Highlights". Retrieved 2007-08-21. 
  15. ^ "No ordinary effort from this Joe". Retrieved 2007-09-02. 
  16. ^ "Official site of the Minnesota Twins : 2003 Career Highlights". Retrieved 2007-08-21. 
  17. ^ "No panic over closer situations". Retrieved 2007-08-22. 
  18. ^ "Twins sign Nathan to two-year deal". Retrieved 2007-08-22. 
  19. ^ a b c "Official site of the Minnesota Twins : 2004 Career Highlights". Retrieved 2007-08-21. 
  20. ^ "Nathan earns All-Star invitation". Retrieved 2007-08-22. 
  21. ^ "Nathan dazzles NL hitters". Retrieved 2007-08-23. 
  22. ^ a b Associated Press (2007-10-29). "Twins exercise Nathan's option at bargain price of $6M". Retrieved 2009-02-26. 
  23. ^ a b c d "Official site of the Minnesota Twins : 2005 Career Highlights". Retrieved 2007-08-23. 
  24. ^ "Twins send two arms to All-Star Game". Retrieved 2007-08-23. 
  25. ^ "Santana, Nathan help out AL All-Stars". Retrieved 2007-08-23. 
  26. ^ "Nathan gets chance to compete for U.S.". Retrieved 2007-08-23. 
  27. ^ "World Baseball Classic: Statistics, Mexico-U.S.". Retrieved 2007-08-23. 
  28. ^ "World Baseball Classic: Statistics, Japan-U.S.". Retrieved 2007-08-23. 
  29. ^ "World Baseball Classic: Statistics, U.S.-Mexico". Retrieved 2007-08-23. 
  30. ^ a b c d e f "Official site of the Minnesota Twins : 2006 Career Highlights". Retrieved 2007-08-23. 
  31. ^ "Press Release: Joe Nathan named winner of the "DHL Presents the Major League Baseball Delivery Man of the Month Award" for July". Retrieved 2007-08-23. 
  32. ^ "Delivery Man of the Month/Year Award by DHL on Baseball Almanac". Retrieved 2007-09-25. 
  33. ^ "Closed deal keeps Nathan with Twins". Retrieved 2007-11-30. 
  34. ^ Associated Press (2008-03-24). "After 37 saves in 2007, Nathan agrees to new four-year contract with Twins". Retrieved 2009-02-26. 
  35. ^ Gameday
  36. ^ Mauer earns first All-Star Game start | News
  37. ^ ESPN - Joe Nathan Stats, News, Photos - Minnesota Twins
  38. ^ ESPN - MLB Closer Report - Major League Baseball
  39. ^ "Indians top Twins 12-9 in 11 innings". Yahoo Sports!. Retrieved 2009-08-26. 
  40. ^ ESPN - MLB Baseball Pitching Statistics and League Leaders - Major League Baseball
  41. ^ Mayo, Jonathan. Nathan has elbow tear, will rest for now, Published March 9, 2010. Retrieved March 10, 2010.

External links

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