While Texas (2-6-1) has played nine spring training contests, Nathan's debut coincides with what would traditionally be the opening weekend for games under a standard schedule. The World Baseball Classic led to MLB spring games beginning earlier than usual.
"I expect Joe to throw pitches over the plate, throw the pitches he feels he needs to work on and get his inning in and get out healthy," said manager Ron Washington. "Joe has been throwing a tremendous amount of live (batting practice), so he has seen hitters."
The 38-year-old is entering his second season with Texas and is coming off an impressive 2012 that showed the five-time All Star still deserves a place among the elite closers despite his age and missing the 2010 season due to Tommy John surgery.
Last season, Nathan recorded 37 saves in his return to the full-time closer role for the first time since 2009, including a stretch that saw the right-hander convert a club record and career-best 31 consecutive save chances. He also showed his durability by appearing in four consecutive games at one point last season, although Washington said he hopes to not do that again.
"I don't see any difference in his stuff when I see him throw live (batting practice)," Washington said. "It plays there, it should play in the games like it has all these years."
Nathan currently ranks 24th in Major League Baseball history with 298 career saves.
Other injury notes:
DH Lance Berkman is in the lineup and will see back-to-back action for the first time this spring. Berkman continues to hit leadoff in an effort to maximize his at-bats.
3B Adrian Beltre continues his recovery from a sore calf and is increasing his activity. He could make his spring debut on Monday.
OF Engel Beltre will bat seventh in his return to the Rangers' lineup for the first time since injuring his shoulder during a swing in the team's spring opener. Beltre will play five innings on Sunday and see time on Monday before speaking with team officials to determine if he is ready to join Spain for the World Baseball Classic.
RHP Colby Lewis is scheduled to throw his second bullpen session on Wednesday.
C Eli Whiteside is sidelined with a mild left calf strain.
RHP Tanner Scheppers (tight left hamstring) is scheduled to throw live batting practice today.
OF Craig Gentry showed no signs of a sore hamstring that kept him out of the lineup for three games. In his return on Saturday, Gentry, who is in a three-way battle for the starting center field job, hit a home run, stole two bases, walked twice and scored three runs.
Elvis Andrus (Venezuela), Nelson Cruz (Dominican Republic), Jose Felix (Mexico), Leury Garcia (Dominican Republic) and minor leaguer Gabe Suarez (Spain) all joined their teams for the World Baseball Classic on Sunday. Derek Holland will join Team USA, which is playing in nearby Phoenix, after working out in Surprise this morning.
All three Texas home runs on Saturday were solo shots, breaking a streak that saw all six previous spring home runs being two-run blasts.
SS Jurickson Profar has six walks, tying him for the Cactus League lead.
Cruz leads the team with six RBIs.