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BREAKING: Joe Nathan has a torn UCL

Mar 9, 2010, 8:55 AM EDT

Just got out of the Twins clubhouse, where Joe Nathan, Ron Gardenhire and team trainers revealed that Nathan has a torn UCL.  Your UCL, of course, is your ulnar collateral ligament, which is the ligament that made Tommy John famous and makes everyone else cringe. They’re not certain if it’s a full tear or a partial tear — Gardenhire called it “significant” — and Gardenhire says it’s the sort of thing you can’t tell until you get in and do surgery. Tommy John surgery.

Will they do surgery?  Right now, they’re taking a wait and see approach.  The plan is to give Nathan’s arm 2-3 weeks to see if the pain dies down.  If so, and if he can pitch with it, he’ll do what he can to avoid surgery and try to pitch through the pain.  Gardenhire says it’s totally Nathan’s decision.

My strong sense from everyone’s body language and mood is that they’re pessimistic and surgery is going to happen.  Nathan said that it was “not the news I wanted to hear.”  He said that on the plane on the way back to Florida he was particularly bummed considering how much the Twins did to improve the team this offseason, the new stadium and all of that.

As for replacements, Gardenhire was asked if the team would look in-house. Gardenhire said “We got all kinds of arms out there. What, we got 27, 28 guys with arms, so we’ll find someone.”  He wouldn’t say who it would be, but the sense is that the team will look in-house for a solution at closer.

Personal observation:  With Nathan doing most of the talking, answering questions and being totally straight up with everyone, it was like a guy giving his own eulogy and telling everyone it would be alright. Nathan’s a total pro.  The news is a total downer.

  1. Dave - Mar 9, 2010 at 9:04 AM

    Guerrier closes now?

  2. argh - Mar 9, 2010 at 9:06 AM

    This is exactly why teams with limited budgets should not dedicate such a large portion of payroll to a closer. I should feel bad for Nathan, but I all I can feel is anger towards the front office for getting themselves into this. Even if they buyout 2012 for two million, they will be spending 24.5 million over the next 2 seasons, and likely will get no more than 30 innings out of him.

  3. Mike - Mar 9, 2010 at 9:11 AM

    He doesn’t have the stuff to close. Rauch or Mijares more than likely. Neshek maybe.

  4. Jason @ IIATMS - Mar 9, 2010 at 9:18 AM

    A reall bummer. Nathan’s a stand-up guy and it’s a shame to lose him.

  5. Kevin - Mar 9, 2010 at 9:24 AM

    Bad break for the Twins…. a class organization that is run the right way. Check out Johns Hopkins Dept of Orthopedic Surgery website concerning UCL:
    If they go the surgery route, he can start throwing competitively in ~ 9 months, but……. “The average rehabilitation time for throwing athletes is about 1 year, but it may take up to 24 months for a patient to return to their previous ability level.”
    Not a good sign. Let’s hope he can treat it without surgery, but that comes with its own set of risks.
    But if any team can overcome this, the Twins will find a way….. and this from a Yankee fan….. but one who still appreciates good baseball, wherever it is played.

  6. Anon - Mar 9, 2010 at 9:26 AM

    Rauch should close. But knowing Gardy, I think he’ll go committee unless someone really dominates. Especially with this injury coming so late.
    As for Nathan’s contract, sure, it’s easy to second guess now. You can make the same argument for signing any pitcher to any kind of big deal. They’re all one pitch away from a major arm injury. If you want to say no closer should get that kind of contract, that’s fine, but that has nothing to do with injury.

  7. BC - Mar 9, 2010 at 9:29 AM

    I think his arm was falling off at the end of last year. I would have thought they would have picked up on this sooner.

  8. gary - Mar 9, 2010 at 9:31 AM

    the word ‘kibosh’ comes to mind – as in, if Nathan has to have surgery, that may put the kibosh to the Twinkies bull pen this year

  9. T - Mar 9, 2010 at 10:00 AM

    Just think, if this was a Mets pitcher, we would all be blaming the medical staff, for not catching it sooner. But since its the Twins it is just an unfortunate injury.

  10. Yossarian - Mar 9, 2010 at 10:30 AM

    Cue Mijares! No, wildman; cue Guerrier! No, too soft; cue Crain! No, too nervous; cue Neshek! No, arm suspect; cue Rauch! No, too wild; cue Liriano! No, lack of confidence; cue Perkins! Yeah, cue Perkins!
    This is too bad, 85 wins max.

  11. Mike2 - Mar 9, 2010 at 10:49 AM

    This is the reason all contracts should be on performance. If they save 10 games $$ if win 20 games $$$ if they hit 325 $$$ if they field errorless $$ on and on etc. These big contracts are just for publisity and is bad for all sports.

  12. John - Mar 9, 2010 at 10:52 AM

    This is a big hit for the twins, and for Nathan, But lets give the organization some credit. Lets enjoy watching what a real organization does when faced with a serious problem. There will be someone who gets “his chance”. We have seen this before. The twins are masters at pulling rabbits out of a hat. Enjoy!

  13. Chris - Mar 9, 2010 at 11:07 AM

    There seem s to be a lot of outrage about the contract and how it will affect the twins. Am I mistaken in that this contract was insured for an event such as this? Yes it is now dead money, but a large chunk of it will be recouped by the team.

  14. Mike2 - Mar 9, 2010 at 11:38 AM

    Yes , but they should make all contracts performanced based insured or not. If teams made them performace base they would not have a need to take out insurance. The players could if they wanted.

  15. Get a Grip - Mar 9, 2010 at 11:46 AM

    Twins will be fine. The only fires Nathan put out down the stretch last year were the ones he started. Take Liriano give him the ball and make him the closer. He ‘s always been lights out the first time through the order…even last year.

  16. Z - Mar 9, 2010 at 11:50 AM

    Tommy John surgery at age 35? Sad to say, but good night Joe Nathan.

  17. crazywabbit - Mar 9, 2010 at 11:57 AM

    Tigers skipper Jim “Marlboro Man” Leyland just sucked down a whole carton of smokes because he knows he’s a goner if his team doesn’t take the Central now.

  18. Brad - Mar 9, 2010 at 11:59 AM

    Good luck getting the MLBPA to agreee to that one. Would you like another work stoppage (strike) or do you like to actually watch and go to games? I can guarantee that if go to performance based only contracts with no guaranteed salary, it will be a cold day in h*ll before the players will approve that. Imagine if your employer walked up to you today and said, hey Mike2 we are taking away your salary/wage and paying you be performance only. The private sector would be up in arms.

  19. Mike - Mar 9, 2010 at 3:30 PM

    Calibre of baseball would dramaticlly increase. It worked in sports in the past and see no reason it would not work again. If you have a bad year you should not expect to gat a raise or new contract. I do work in performance based pay and I am very happy. It keeps you on your toes and no sluff off time. Some of the players get that big contract and sluff off the next year and some for even longer.

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