Joe Nathan throws for first time since Tommy John surgery

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Joe Nathan played catch yesterday for the first time since undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery in March, making 20 throws from flat ground at a distance of 45 feet.
Starting to throw again from flat ground is merely the first big step on the long road back from Tommy John surgery and Nathan is still not a sure thing to be ready for Opening Day next season, but so far so good.

Just to see that the work up to this point is working is very encouraging. Just to get out here and finally play some baseball, play some catch and not feel any pain, it’s very encouraging. We’re right on track. You don’t want to say you’re ahead of schedule, because with Tommy John surgery, that’s usually not a good thing. It usually means there will be setbacks. So we talk about the importance of being patient and not thinking you’re ahead of the game.

Jon Rauch has fared well filling in for Nathan as the Twins’ closer, converting 20-of-24 save opportunities with a 3.31 ERA and 26/8 K/BB ratio in 35.1 innings, although he’s struggled some recently.
For more on Nathan’s comeback, Mel Antonen of USA Today wrote a lengthy article about his rehabbing away from the team in Tennessee.

Steven Souza Jr. exits game after injuring his hand on a hit by pitch

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Rays’ right fielder Steven Souza Jr. left Saturday’s game after getting hit on the left hand by a pitch from Blue Jays’ right-hander Joe Biagini in the seventh inning. The pitch appeared to hit the top of Souza Jr.’s hand, causing the outfielder to crumple at the plate and requiring assistance from assistant athletic trainer Paul Harker as he exited the field. Postgame reports from the Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin revealed that Souza Jr. sustained a left hand contusion and is scheduled to undergo further evaluation on Sunday.

While the diagnosis isn’t as bad as it could be, it’s still a tough break for the right fielder, who missed 40 days of the 2015 season after sustaining a fracture in his left hand on another hit by pitch. The team has yet to announce any concrete timetable for Souza Jr.’s return, though manager Kevin Cash indicated that they’ll be taking things day to day for the time being.

Souza Jr. is batting .326/.398/.543 with four home runs and 17 RBI through 104 PA in 2017. He went 1-for-2 with a base hit and a walk prior to his departure during Saturday’s 4-1 loss.

Video: Brett Gardner goes deep for his first and second home runs of 2017

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It’s been a slow start to the season for Yankees’ outfielder Brett Gardner, who entered Saturday’s matinee against the Orioles with a .188/.316/.234 batting line, three doubles and five stolen bases in his first 76 PA of the year. That all changed in the first inning of Saturday’s game, when Gardner skied a leadoff home run to right field:

Orioles’ right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez couldn’t find his footing against the Yankees in the second inning, either. Gardner returned for his second home run of the season, a three-run shot to lift New York 5-0 over Baltimore:

Measured at 411 feet in the right field bullpen, the left fielder’s blast marked the seventh home run hit by a Yankee this series. According to the club’s PR department, it’s also the first multi-home run game Gardner has recorded since September 2015. The Yankees currently lead the Orioles 7-0 through four innings.