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.

Jon Gray will start Opening Day for the Rockies

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Manager Bud Black has tabbed Jon Gray to start on Opening Day for the Rockies. That will be Monday, April 3 in Milwaukee against the Brewers in an afternoon contest.

Gray, 25, is starting Opening Day for the first time in his career. He’ll be the sixth different Rockies pitcher to start Opening Day in as many years.

The Rockies and Gray had a bit of a scare on Friday as he left his spring training start with discomfort in his left foot, but everything came up clean in an MRI. He pitched again on Wednesday with no issue.

Last season, Gray went 10-10 with a 4.61 ERA and a 185/59 K/BB ratio in 168 innings. A consensus top prospect entering each of the previous three seasons, Gray surprisingly put up better numbers at Coors Field — the most hitter-friendly park in baseball — than away.

Blake Treinen named Nationals closer

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Today Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker named Blake Treinen as his closer. Treinen has saved exactly one big league game.

There wasn’t necessarily an obvious choice, however. Last year Washington had Mark Melancon, but with him gone and GM Mike Rizzo’s failure to land a high-profile closer in the offseason, it became a contest between Treinen Shawn Kelley and Koda Glover.

Treinen posted a 2.28 ERA with 31 walks and 63 Ks in 67 innings in 2016. His big improvement last year came against lefties, who had tattooed him in the past. He pitched well this spring as well, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

The Nats are our favorites to win the NL East, but we do have some questions about the pen. Blake Treinen will take the first crack at answering them.