- November 22, 1974
- 6' 4"
- 225 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 4-21-1999 with SFN
Joe Nathan began his pro career in 1995 as a shortstop in the San Francisco Giants organization after being selected in the sixth round of that year's amateur draft. That year, he hit 3 homers and drove in 20 runs for the Bellingham Giants, but he sat out the 1996 season and completed his college degree. In 1997, he returned to the Giants organization and was converted to a pitcher, going 2-1 with a 2.47 ERA and 2 saves for the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. The next year, he posted a 3.32 ERA for the Class A San Jose Giants before being promoted to the AA Shreveport Captains later in the season.
Nathan made his big league debut in 1999 and was primarily a starter in his first two major league seasons. After the 2003 season, he was traded to the Minnesota Twins along with Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser for A.J. Pierzynski. He quickly established himself as Minnesota's closer, saving more than 40 games in each of his first two full seasons with the Twins. He reached a personal-best 47 saves in 2009, after saving between 36 and 39 the three previous seasons. With 246 saves with the Twins at the end of 2009, he was only 8 behind all-time franchise leader Rick Aguilera.
Nathan missed the entire 2010 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on March 26. He returned to action at the beginning of the 2011 season and earned his first save in over a year on April 3, although it was a struggle. Still not back to his prior dominance, he needed 31 pitches and he gave up a run and loaded the bases against the Toronto Blue Jays before retiring Adam Lind on a ground ball to preserve a 4-3 win; he was also helped by LF Delmon Young who made a great catch to rob J.P. Arencibia of an extra-base hit during the inning. Nathan kept struggling over his next few appearances, even though he earned two more saves, then on April 16, he gave up a game-tyinng home run to Ben Zobrist of the Tampa Bay Rays, then walked the next two batters before being taken out of the game. He then asked to be removed from the closer's role, in favor of Matt Capps, while he tried to return to his previous form.
Through 2007, Nathan was the last Giant whose major league debut came as a winning starting pitcher. As mentioned, that was in 1999: every other major league team has had such a debut since then.
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- Joe Nathan