When managers talk about closers, they veer into political double-speak. Matt Capps hasn't been removed as closer. He was just "unlikely to close today if the Twins needed a save." This is a downgrade from Tuesday, when Ron Gardenhire said that Capps was the closer, but that "we'll deal with this in the next couple of days." Based on this pattern, Capps is going to be giving a tearful press conference on Friday morning, his wife dutifully standing by his side in her Sunday best while Capps apologizes to everyone under the sun.
In the short term, it sounds like Capps isn't going to be getting the ball in the 9th anytime soon. Logically, that seems to leave Joe Nathan or Glen Perkins as the next guy who is going to get the ball when there's a save opportunity.
Perkins has been the superior pitcher all year long. He's been throwing with increased velocity as a reliever, and has been the sixth most valuable reliever in the American League this year. Based on merit, Perkins should be the guy who gets the ball.
However, Joe Nathan has shown some improvement since coming off of the DL, particularly in his last four outings. His velocity is up somewhat, and while we always want to be careful about reading too much into four appearances, what is important here is that Gardenhire might be reading enough into this to give Nathan is old job back.
These situations are always an exercise in guesswork; unless the manager says or does something that makes it obvious what he intends to do. Perkins has the last two saves. Intuitively, this tells me that he's the guy to own right now. On the other hand, Nathan is the guy with the long track record, and Gardenhire is nothing if not loyal to his favorites. I wouldn't be surprised if Nathan gets the job back in a couple of weeks and hangs on to it for the rest of the season.
One wrinkle here is that Nathan's contract with the Twins runs out at the end of this season (there is a $2M buyout). There is a limited no-trade clause, but Nathan still could be a trade chip if the Twins decided to move him. Nathan might wind up elsewhere in 2012 regardless. Capps is also a free agent this winter. If you're in a keeper league, Perkins is someone you definitely should hang on to just in case he's the Twins closer in 2012.