Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 2/22/12
SURPRISE, Ariz. You wouldn't expect a closer with 261 career saves to be nervous heading into spring training. But new Texas Rangers right-hander Joe Nathan had a few butterflies as he made his way to camp in Surprise for the first time. "I feel like a rookie," said Nathan, who has the locker that used to be occupied by Darren Oliver. "It feels like the first year for me. It's been a while since I've been around a new environment, a new team. I've gotten lost a couple of times. It's been fun for me." The Rangers are hoping the fun continues throughout the season for Nathan, who signed a two-year deal with the club in December. Nathan will take over for Neftali Feliz as the club's closer and hopes to show he's all the way back from Tommy John surgery in 2010. He showed signs of that last year with Minnesota, as he allowed six earned runs over his final 14 appearances and recorded six saves. The way he closed last season gave him confidence that he's all the way back from the surgery he had in March of 2010. "This is as good as I've felt since I can't remember," said Nathan, who missed all of the 2010 season. "I'm weighing about what I weighed in my 20s. It's definitely the best I've felt coming in for Day 1 in a long time. I'm excited. People have told me that the timeline is about 18 months (from the surgery) and that was the beginning of the offseason. I had a great workout this winter and looked forward to this day for a long time." While the Texas pitchers will throw bullpens and to hitters Thursday for the first time in camp, Nathan has already thrown seven times. He said he did that so he would be ready to face hitters early in camp. Nathan has already had a good offseason. By signing his two year, 14-million deal early, he avoided the drama that many other relievers had to endure. "It was a different situation for me as well," Nathan said. "Those guys were in a situation where they were coming off good seasons and they were in a spot where they didn't want to sign too early but at the same time the musical chairs phrase is where you don't want to be the last one and run out of teams. There is a time you want to get some things done. For me it was just a matter of seeing what teams were interested." And once one of those interested teams was Texas? "Once Texas showed some interest it wasn't a matter of waiting," he said. "It was to see if we could both get to a spot we were comfortable with moving forward and we did. Fortunately for us it was relatively early in the offseason."
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