TORONTO -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire announced Thursday that right-handed relievers Joe Nathan and Matt Capps will share the closer duties early in the season until Nathan proves he is fully healthy and can pitch multiple days in a row.
"We know our closer situation and how we're going to handle that," Gardenhire said via conference call. "We've talked to Joe and Capper about it. We know Joe can't go three, four or five days in a row, or maybe even two, so we'll protect him early. We have two pretty good ones there."
Nathan, recovering from Tommy John surgery that forced him to miss all of the 2010 season, finished spring with a 9.72 ERA, but allowed all nine of his earned runs in two appearances against the Phillies and didn't allow an earned run in any of his other seven outings. He made one two-inning appearance in a Minor League game last week and pitched on back-to-back days on Thursday and Friday.
Capps posted a perfect 0.00 ERA over 10 innings in 10 appearances in Grapefruit League play but did blow a save against the Braves at Turner Field on Tuesday, when he allowed two unearned runs to score in the bottom of the ninth inning of an eventual 4-2 loss.
Morneau cleared to play Opening Day
TORONTO -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire confirmed Thursday that first baseman Justin Morneau was cleared by doctors to play Opening Day against the Blue Jays on Friday at Rogers Centre.
Morneau, who played in 11 games in Spring Training in his return from a season-ending concussion suffered July 7, will start at first base and bat fourth in the lineup with Jays left-hander Ricky Romero on the mound.
"I talked with him yesterday and told him we'll play him a few days and see how he's doing and give him a break here and there," Gardenhire said via conference call. "That gives me a chance to get [Jim] Thome in the lineup so we can work through it."
Morneau batted just .152 with three doubles this spring, but Gardenhire attributed it to a late start, as he didn't make his Grapefruit League debut until March 11. But Gardenhire also added he's not worried about Morneau, knowing what the former AL MVP can do at the plate.
"He'll tell you he's getting closer," Gardenhire said. "The big thing is he feels good on and off the field. We have a good thing going on there. Now, we just have to find him at-bats. I sat him down in my office, and I said, 'Are you ready to do this?' And he said he's ready to do it. So that's all I can go by."
Gardenhire also announced his full starting lineup for Friday's game, with Denard Span leading off and playing center field and being followed by second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka, catcher Joe Mauer, Morneau, left fielder Delmon Young, designated hitter Jason Kubel, right fielder Michael Cuddyer, third baseman Danny Valencia and shortstop Alexi Casilla.
"That's a not a bad lineup," Gardenhire quipped.