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MLB: Minnesota goes with Rauch as closer

MINNEAPOLIS -- The committee was disbanded before it ever held a meeting. Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire named right-hander Jon Rauch as the closer Friday, less than a week after saying he would use a closer-by-committee approach. With fo...

MINNEAPOLIS -- The committee was disbanded before it ever held a meeting.

Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire named right-hander Jon Rauch as the closer Friday, less than a week after saying he would use a closer-by-committee approach.

With four-time All-Star Joe Nathan out of the season with a right elbow injury, Gardenhire picked the only other pitcher on his staff with big league closing experience. Rauch converted 17 of 22 save opportunities for Washington in 2008. No one else on the staff has more than four major league saves.

The move keeps Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain and left-hander Jose Mijares in their setup roles. With one designated closer, all the relievers will have a better idea when they might be asked to pitch.

"We always had a good set up where everybody knows their roles, and we have tried to do that when we can," Gardenhire said. "We have gotten a little screwed up with that when guys weren't throwing the ball well, and it had become kind of a mess."

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Gardenhire asked Rauch to be the closer on Thursday's plane ride home from Fort Myers, Fla.

"I thought it was an April Fool's joke," Rauch said. "It's an honor that they have the confidence in me to do that. Hopefully I can try to do somewhat of the job that Joe did the past few years and keep this team on a winning streak and get them to the postseason."

Rauch said he would have no problem moving back to a setup role if the Twins trade for another closer, but there are no hints that the front office is close to a move.

"A lot of teams know our situation right now, and they want your whole organization, and it's not going to happen," Gardenhire said Thursday.

The prospect enticing other teams most is Class AAA catcher Wilson Ramos, and though he is stuck behind Joe Mauer, there are indications the Twins would not move him for any closer, not even Padres All-Star Heath Bell.

Earlier this month, Gardenhire checked with Francisco Liriano about converting from starter to closer. Liriano opted to stick with starting, and Gardenhire waited until the team left Florida before naming Nathan's replacement.

"Rauch has got saves; he's been a closer, he's experienced at it," Gardenhire said. "We'll let him go do it and the rest of them will set him up."

Rauch stands 6-foot-11 and is wrapped in tattoos, giving him a menacing look, but he doesn't have Nathan's overpowering stuff. Since joining the Twins in 2004, Nathan has held opponents to a .182 batting average. For his career, Rauch has held hitters to a .243 average.

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But Rauch went 5-1 with a 1.72 ERA in 17 appearances for the Twins last year after coming from Arizona in a late-August trade from Arizona for pitcher Kevin Mulvey.

"I felt like I was able to make a little change and adjustment when I came over here last year," Rauch said. "Hopefully I can just continue that through this season."

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