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.