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Thursday, May 17, 2012
Buzz: Joe Nathan firing in mid-90s, feeling good

By Tim MacMahon

ARLINGTON, Texas – Any more questions about whether 37-year-old closer Joe Nathan can regain his pre-Tommy John surgery form?

Nathan was absolutely filthy during his Wednesday night save against the A’s. He fanned all three batters that he faced, complementing a fastball that was consistently in the mid-90s with outstanding breaking stuff.

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“It feels good to feel good,” said Nathan, who missed the entire 2010 season and part of 2011 after his surgery. “I haven’t been able to say that in a while. I felt good this spring, I felt good coming into this season, but I think when we were in Toronto and I went out for an appearance there, something really clicked. I felt my arm strength come back.”

Nathan hadn’t had a 1-2-3, strike-out-the-side save since April 21, 2007. Not coincidentally, he said that he hasn’t thrown this hard on a consistent basis since 2007.

“He’s back,” said manager Ron Washington, who joked that Nathan might have had a bionic part put in his arm during his operation. “He had tremendous stuff last night. He really did. Matter of fact, each time he’s been taking the ball since his first two games of the season, it’s been getting sharper and sharper and sharper.”

Nathan’s fastball had been humming along in the low ‘90s early in the season, when he admitted that he dealt with some shoulder soreness. He’s pain free now and feeling like the guy who was a four-time All-Star before his elbow problems.

“Does it surprise me? No,” said Nathan, who has converted eight of nine save opportunities. “That’s why I’ve put so much work in, to get back to this. It’s not surprising. I’m happy. I’m very happy that it’s back. Velocity is not the most important thing out there. Location is, but it definitely doesn’t hurt to have a lot more velocity because you can get away with mistakes.”

Nathan still has to prove he can be effective on consecutive days. He has allowed four earned runs in five innings pitching with no rest, compared to one earned run in 10 2/3 innings with at least one day of rest.