BREAKING: Joe Nathan has a torn UCL

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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.

Nationals Acquire Ryan Raburn From White Sox

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The Washington Nationals have acquired outfielder Ryan Raburn from the Chicago White Sox. Raburn had been playing at Triple-A Charlotte. He’ll be assigned to Triple-A Syracuse in the Nats organization. The Nationals will send cash or a player to be named later to the White Sox to complete the deal.

Raburn has yet to play in the majors this season. Last year he hit .220/.309/.404 with nine homers in 113 games for the Colorado Rockies. The year before that he hit an excellent .301/.393/.543 in part time play for the Indians. Over the course of his 11 year career the 36-year-old has hit .253/.317/.436, which breaks down to an OPS+ of exactly 100, which is league average. Primarily an outfielder, Raburn has played every position except shortstop and catcher in his career. He’s even pitched twice.

The Nats plans for him aren’t entirely clear, but depth it depth.

If the Tigers are sub-.500 at the end of June it’ll be fire sale time

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Jon Morosi reports that that the Detroit Tigers will make all veterans available via trade if they’re still under .500 by the end of June.

This was the position they entered the offseason with — everyone is available! — but they ended up gearing up for one more push with the core of veterans they currently employ. It was not a bad move, I don’t think. With the exception of the Indians, the AL Central is mostly down, or at least appeared to be over the winter, with the Royals in decline and the Twins and White Sox seemingly a few years away from contention. The Twins, however, have been fantastic and the Tigers have mostly underachieved.

So we’re back to this. Which veterans the Tigers can reasonably unload, however, is an open question. J.D. Martinez is in his walk year, so while tradable, he may not bring back a big return. Guys like Justin Upton, Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera either have very large contracts or no-trade protection.

The end of June is still a while from now, of course, and while the Tigers are under .500, they’re only 4.5 games behind the Twins. But they had better turn it around or else it sounds like the front office is going to turn the page.