Just three games into the season, two save opportunities have already emerged for newly appointed closer Jon Rauch. Rauch has responded by going 2-for-2 in those opportunities, and the Twins are 2-1. Despite widespread panic that arose over the course of the spring that the Twins would be unable to hold late leads in the absence of a proven, steady closer, both of the Twins' relatively narrow victories have been finished by Rauch without much drama. Already, we are starting to see how overstated the fan and pundit reaction surrounding Nathan's loss has been.
Rauch's performance in last night's 4-2 victory over the Angels was not even a particularly good one. In his one inning of work, he allowed a pair of hits and a run. That's the type of outing you'll see a bit more often from a non-elite reliever like Rauch than you would with Joe Nathan. Yet, as is often the case in save situations, Rauch was given a multi-run pad and the run he allowed was ultimately meaningless.
After coming to the Twins in August last year, Rauch made 17 relief appearances. He allowed zero runs in 16 of those appearances. I certainly don't expect him to continue with that outstanding rate throughout this season, and indeed he already experienced his first blemish last night, but the fact remains that when a solid reliever comes on with the bases empty at the top of an inning, he'll rarely allow a run. And he'll very rarely allow more than one run. Rauch is no superstar closer, but if the Twins keep providing him with a two- or three-run cushion they will have very little to worry about in the ninth inning. And even when the lead is only one, Rauch will get the job done most of the time. As would basically any other candidate to fill the closer role.