Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 11/22/11
ARLINGTON, Texas The Texas Rangers and closer Joe Nathan seem to be the perfect fit for each other. Texas was looking for a high-character pitcher who would allow it to shift Neftali Feliz from the bullpen to the starting rotation. Nathan, who turned 37 on Tuesday, was looking for a team he believed he could win a World Series with. He thinks he found that with the Rangers. "I've been able to admire this club from the other side of the diamond," said Nathan, who signed a two-year, 14.5 million contract with the club holding an option for 2014. "I really feel like this club is such a perfect fit for myself, for my family. Obviously them getting to the postseason and getting to the World Series is definitely huge and knowing what type of club this is and the success they've had played a huge factor." Having a healthy Nathan to close will be a huge lift for the Rangers. Nathan missed all of 2010 after having Tommy John surgery and he struggled early in 2011 with Minnesota. But after missing nearly a month with a flexor muscle strain, he returned and pitched like the right-hander who has made four All-Star teams. Opponents hit just .193 off him over his final 31 appearances and he converted his final 11 save chances of the season. Nathan said he's all the way back now and eager to close games for Texas. "When I came back off the disabled list in June that was a huge turning point for me," Nathan said. "Each month it got better and better for me, the way I felt and the way I was finishing pitches. The feel started coming back for me each month." The injury may have actually helped Nathan become a better closer. Lacking the same velocity when he returned from the DL, Nathan worked on his curveball and had better movement with the pitch. He also got more comfortable with his two-seam fastball. That assortment of pitches from a closer isn't something the Rangers have seen the past two seasons from Feliz, who used his overpowering fastball to blow away hitters. Texas manager Ron Washington is looking forward to seeing Nathan's array of pitches close out games the way he has in converting 261 saves, the fifth most among active pitchers. "There was never a time when he came in where you said you were going to sit on this or sit on that," Washington said. "He mixes his changeup. He throws a cutter. He can sink the ball. Whatever he felt like he had to do at that point the guy's done and that's impressive. Usually when a closer comes in you know you can sit on his fastball or he throws sliders. With Joe you didn't know." The Rangers continued to reiterate Tuesday that the Nathan signing had nothing to do with the struggles of Feliz to close out Game 6 of the World Series. Nathan watched that game from his house and nearly turned off the television when the Rangers were one strike from beating the St. Louis Cardinals. Like every fan of the Rangers, Nathan was stunned the way things turned out. Nathan, who has never pitched in a World Series, would love to be in a similar spot with the Rangers. "There are no guarantees, but I would like to be in that situation to find out," Nathan said. Texas general manager Jon Daniels said the club talked with representatives for free-agent pitcher C.J. Wilson before the club signed Nathan. Nathan, who wore No. 36 with Minnesota, is wearing No. 63 with the Rangers. That could change if the club is able to re-sign Wilson. While Wilson has already started meeting with teams, the Rangers have nothing scheduled although something could still be set up. The focus right now is getting Nathan some more help in the bullpen. "There is still some opportunity to improve the bullpen," Daniels said. "The rotation we're comfortable going to war with it as is. We're open minded. We know there are some pretty good players out there."
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