Nathan's 22nd straight save sets club record
Closer has returned to his dominant form with Rangers after Tommy John surgery
TORONTO -- The Rangers' bullpen has been one of the many strengths of the club this year, and closer Joe Nathan is the primary reason why.
Nathan notched his 22nd consecutive save Saturday, which set a club record, and he is 24-for-25 in save opportunities this season. The 22 straight saves is the longest active streak in baseball and just two behind the Indians' Chris Perez for the longest of the 2012 season.
The 37-year-old Nathan has had only one longer run in his career, which came in 2004 as a member of the Twins when he converted 27 straight saves.
Nathan missed all of 2010 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, and he came back in 2011 to turn in one of the worst seasons of his career. But that didn't stop the Rangers from signing him to a multiyear deal in the offseason, and manager Ron Washington believes he's pitching like his former dominant self.
"I think before his operation, what you see is what he was, all the years in Minnesota," Washington said.
"He just doesn't have one pitch, that's what makes him so effective. He can cut it, sink it, slide it, curve it, and he's not afraid to use any of them at any time."
Washington said the key down the stretch will be monitoring Nathan's workload because "he's at his best when we have him fresh."
The skipper plans on using Nathan a little less in situations that he may have found himself in earlier in the season. Washington said that will create an opening for others and named Mark Lowe, Tanner Scheppers and Michael Kirkman as some of the relievers he could rely on a little more as a result.
Scheppers and Kirkland were two key pieces during Saturday's victory, as they were part of a relief corps that worked 4 1/3 scoreless innings for at least the third time this season. Nathan may get the praise, and rightfully so, but the group that bridges the gap to Mike Adams in the eighth has been throwing exceptional, too.
Texas' bullpen has won four of its past five games and has the best winning percentage (.680) and save percentage (.853) in the Majors.
Recovering well, Napoli could return when eligible
TORONTO -- Mike Napoli's road to recovery is going well, and there remains a possibility that he could rejoin the team when he is eligible to return from the 15-day disabled list on Aug. 26.
But that will ultimately be determined once Napoli visits team doctor Keith Meister this upcoming week and has his strained left quad reevaluated.
"He's been working hard, doing a lot of medicine-ball work for his quad," Washington said. "He doesn't feel it when he bends anymore, but we just want to make sure it's gone so he can have a peace of mind."
If all checks out, manager Ron Washington said Napoli wouldn't need much time to get back in the lineup, and would probably use him as the team's designated hitter initially.
The All-Star catcher is batting .223 with 17 homers and 40 RBIs over 92 games this season.
Geovany Soto and Luis Martinez, who was recalled from Triple-A Round Rock when Napoli landed on the DL, have been catching during his absence.
Uehara set to begin rehab assignment Tuesday
TORONTO -- Right-handed reliever Koji Uehara threw 30 pitches in a live batting practice session with Double-A Frisco on Saturday with no reported setbacks. He was able to mix in all of his pitches effectively, according to manager Ron Washington.
"It went well," Washington said. "Today is the key with him to find out if there is any residual [effects] from it. But so far, so good."
Uehara, who has been sidelined since June 10 with a right lat strain that he aggravated in July, is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment Tuesday at Triple-A Round Rock.
The plan is for him to throw again on Friday, and if he is fine after the two rehab assignments, Washington said the team would activate him on Aug. 26, when Texas is at home against the Twins.
Uehara has a 2.11 ERA and 0.70 WHIP over 21 1/3 innings this season with a fantastic 22:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Chris Toman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.