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TWINS: 'Tough to say goodbye' to Minnesota, new Ranger Nathan says

ST. PAUL Joe Nathan turned 37 on Tuesday. "This is my birthday present," he said. That would be a $14.75 million, two-year free-agent contract he signed with the Texas Rangers as their closer. There's also an option year. Nathan said his former c...

ST. PAUL

Joe Nathan turned 37 on Tuesday.

"This is my birthday present," he said.

That would be a $14.75 million, two-year free-agent contract he signed with the Texas Rangers as their closer. There's also an option year.

Nathan said his former club, the Twins, made an offer that was slightly less than that of the Rangers.

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"But it was ballpark," he said.

He also said he received a total of eight offers, some of which were for more money than he accepted to play in Texas, which lost in seven games to the St. Louis Cardinals in this year's World Series.

Nathan, the Twins' career saves leader (260), said his departure from the Twins was "bittersweet."

"The Twins have such a classy organization and gave me such a wonderful opportunity for eight great seasons that that definitely made it a tough decision," he said. "But coming to a ballclub like this is a good fit for my family, and hopefully we're a good fit for them as well."

The chance to pitch in the postseason was especially important to Nathan.

"One of our goals was to find a contender and get back and pitch in some big games ASAP," he said. "We just didn't want this club and this opportunity to pass us by, so we really showed a lot of interest in this and wanted to get things done."

Nathan said the Twins made their offer -- also for two years -- early on.

"Other than the Twins, we tried to focus on the Rangers," he said. "We weighed each side and thought about what would be the best fit for my

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family and my career moving forward."

Nathan and agent Dave Pepe notified the Twins of their decision on Monday.

"I think they were very complimentary," Nathan said. "It was tough to say goodbye to them, and I'm sure it was tough for them to say goodbye as well. But I think they understand my situation."

Nathan got to have dinner with Rangers President Nolan Ryan and other club officials in Dallas a couple of weeks ago. Nathan had a steak.

"I let Nolan pick one of the appetizers," he said of the hall of fame former pitcher. "That was pretty cool. He was phenomenal. That definitely played a huge part in this decision process. We had a long dinner, and the conversation was great. Getting to know those guys made it comfortable to move forward."

The Twins' uncertain future -- the team lost 99 games this season -- played a part in Nathan's decision to move on, he said.

"There are no guarantees in this game, so I don't want to count them out, and I hope nothing but the best for the Twins and hope they turn things around and have a shot at making the playoffs," he said. "But for me, I felt more comfortable coming here."

Nathan's not the manager, but he said he would think Glen Perkins would warrant a chance to become the Twins' closer.

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"Maybe Perkins, and there still are guys on the market," he said. "I know (Matt) Capps is still out there. They have some decisions to make. But Perkins probably deserves a shot. Let's see what he can do."

Nathan said he is "37 years young." He said he intends to pitch for another five years.

"And we'll see how we feel then; that's the plan," he said.

Nathan missed all of 2010 because of an elbow ligament replacement, but he finished the second half of this season with 11 saves. His physical comeback from surgery continues.

"That's why the Rangers were comfortable with this," he said. "If they didn't think I was going to come back stronger, I don't think this whole process would have taken place."

Nathan pointed out that he'll be back in Minnesota when the Rangers make their first road trip next season April 13-15.

"My family and I want to say thanks to Minnesota for eight great seasons there; the fans have been nothing but a class act," he said. "Thank you for everything."

Joe Nathan said reports that he signed a $14.5 million contract were inaccurate. It's actually $14.75 million.

"But what's a quarter of a mill?" he said.

Nathan's contract is also incentive-loaded. If he attains certain incentives, his salary for each of the two years will escalate, as well as making a third-year option mutual rather than a club option.

Nathan, on receiving a $2 million contract buyout from the Twins when they didn't pick up his 2012 option: "It's always nice to have a paycheck when they say goodbye."

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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