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Chicago Cubs: Is Joe Nathan ready for a bullpen role?

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Apr 6, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Joe Nathan (36) point to home during the ninth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Comerica Park. Detroit won 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 6, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Joe Nathan (36) point to home during the ninth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Comerica Park. Detroit won 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /
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How close is former All-Star closer Joe Nathan to making an impact in the Chicago Cubs’ bullpen? We may find out sooner than later…

In addition to a touch of Seattle, the Chicago Cubs‘ bullpen might soon be getting a touch of gray in the form of former All-Star closer Joe Nathan, who is making his way up through the Cubs’ minor league system.

Nathan, 41, is currently with the Triple-A club in Des Moines, IA, and might be nearing a promotion to the major league bullpen, per Tommy Birch of The Des Moines Register.

This defense of Nathan came after an outing on Wednesday night in which he retired the first batter he faced, then walked the bases loaded.

Still, on the whole, it seems like Wednesday night’s struggles from Nathan were the exception, not the norm. He’s reportedly hitting between 91 and 92 on his fastball, and while coaches note he doesn’t have the same stuff he had when he was saving 35-40 games a season, he’s still going to be able to get hitters out at the Major League level.

Nathan is coming off of injury, but said in an article by Chris Kuc of The Chicago Tribune that he didn’t want to end his baseball career if it wasn’t on his own terms.

“Winning a championship is the ultimate goal. And I still love this game and want to be a part of it. But definitely a huge factor in going through all the work to come back is going out on my own terms. For me, it really wasn’t a question to try to come back.”

Despite his rocky night for the I-Cubs, it appears as though the comeback to the Bigs is on, and he could be with the Cubs as soon as Friday in Milwaukee.

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The Cubs understandably want to get a look at Nathan to see if they can get bullpen help without having to make a significant trade for significant prospects. Had you asked me earlier this week, I might have told you that Dan Vogelbach was the biggest prospect the Cubs were going to be willing to part with in a trade, and he was sent to Seattle for lefty Mike Montgomery in a four-player trade.

With Vogelbach now off the table, along with Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber apparently untouchable, it would seem the Cubs will have to get creative in trade discussions if they want to complete a trade for a bigger name reliever.

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It remains to be seen what role he would play, but Nathan figures to get a look from the Cubs here in the next few days, if not as early as Friday. There is still plenty of time before the trade deadline, but the former All-Star closer is going to have to make his presence felt to prevent the Cubs from going out and making a more significant move for late-inning relief help.

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