Regardless of what sport it is, there is always a lot of pressure on a player to perform at a high level when they join a new team. They want to show their new teammates that they can be a key player to a successful season and that they are worth whatever type of contract the team signed them to.
However, if that player is a high-profile closer, then the pressure to perform becomes that much greater.
That is the scenario facing veteran Joe Nathan as he embarks on his 16th season in the MLB, and even though he was great in his first appearance for the Detroit Tigers on Opening Day by recording a scoreless ninth inning (and eventually earning the win with his relief work), he did falter this afternoon while doing what his primary job will be this season: saving ball games.
Nathan was unable to hold onto the 1-0 lead that Detroit had entering the ninth inning thanks to an Ian Kinsler homer earlier in the game. The veteran closer was wild that inning as he allowed two walks, a hit and the game tying run to send the game into extras. But, there was no harm and no foul as Detroit still managed to top the Kansas City Royals in the next inning, 2-1.
Regardless of what happened today or what will happen for the rest of the season, there is no doubt that Nathan still represents a huge upgrade for the Tigers in the closer position as Joaquin Benoit only recorded 24 saves last year and fellow closer Jose Valverde owned a bloated 5.59 ERA, which is obviously unfit for a closer. Nathan has never pitched a full season in which his ERA dipped over 2.80 and has even gone under the 2.00 mark five times since 2004. He has also averaged almost 41 (40.75) saves in his last eight full seasons.
Needless to say, Nathan is one of the best in his position and even though he had a hiccup in his first save opportunity with his new team, he will be just fine and will continue to show Detroit why he represents a much better closer option than what they had in 2013.