Sunday, March 21, 2010

Joe Nathan Going Under Knife

A test of Joe Nathan's bum elbow Sunday didn't go very well.

After a light throwing session in Florida, Nathan told reporters he has decided to undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. The procedure will take care of Nathan's torn ulnar collateral ligament, but it requires Nathan sit out the 2010 season, the team's first at new Target Field.

Nathan said he hopes to return for the 2011 season, hopefully by Opening Day.

The typical Tommy John recovery is 12-18 months, so Nathan is obviously hoping to get on the low end of that scale.

"Didn’t go like we hoped," Nathan said. "We knew it was a long shot, but what this did do is clear my head. Definitely was no gray area. Definitely was on the black side, where it didn’t go as well as we like, and we know now we’re going to have to go in and get some surgery done, get this thing fixed up." Nathan said he will have the surgery as soon as possible, though he hasn't decided where or when. The estimated recovery time is 12 months, and Nathan said he's "very confident" he'll be ready for Opening Day next year. "Any time you’re going to be out for the season -- but especially the timing of this, with this ballclub, this new stadium, the excitement -- it’s definitely tough," Nathan said. "But right now I’ve got to take care of myself and get myself ready for next year."

The Twins can now move on to the next phase of this process. While Nathan gets himself taken care of by trained medical professionals, general manager Bill Smith and manager Ron Gardenhire have to find a closer.

It's not likely that the Twins will go without a designated closer, and it's apparently not likely that they'll convert Francisco Liriano to the job, since it appears they're getting him ready to be in the starting rotation.

Even if you think this is dumb (and you have to at least think they're playing with fire by letting a guy with arm problems in his past who likes to throw too many sliders continue on as a starting pitcher), at least the organization is willing to make decisions.

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