Joe Nathan had an “outstanding” mound session today

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Joe Nathan’s comeback from Tommy John elbow surgery appears to be going well, as the Twins closer threw off a mound outdoors today for the first time since missing all of last season and pitching coach Rick Anderson called the session “outstanding.”

Nathan arrived at spring training ahead of schedule and was reportedly clocked in the high-80s right away, and according to Anderson he was throwing “smooth” and “easy” today.

He still has some hurdles to get over and Nathan averaged 93.6 miles per hour with his fastball in 2009, but the early results are very encouraging for a Twins team that desperately needs him to return at something resembling his old self to stabilize a bullpen that lost more than half of its innings from last year to free agency.

Prior to the injury Nathan saved 246 games with a 1.87 ERA in six seasons as the Twins’ closer, narrowly besting Mariano Rivera for the most saves and lowest ERA in baseball during that time.

Justin Verlander named ALCS MVP

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Following the Astros’ decisive 4-0 shutout over the Yankees on Saturday night, Justin Verlander was named the Most Valuable Player of the American League Championship Series. Hall of Fame outfielder and former MLB manager Frank Robinson handed the award to Verlander, who was beaming as he thanked his teammates and members of the Astros’ organization.

“I’ve got to say, it came down to the wire, and one thing kept going off in my head was Dallas,” Verlander told the crowd gathered at Minute Maid Park. “When he called me, he said that I won’t regret my decision to join the Houston Astros. And here we are right now, it’s the best feeling in the world. We’ve got four more wins to win a World Series, and I do not regret my decision to come here. This is the best feeling a player can have. So, thank you.”

Among a cast that boasted the likes of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Dallas Keuchel, among others, Verlander was spectacular. He locked down a complete game win in Game 2, holding the Yankees to one run on five hits and a walk and striking out a postseason-high 13 batters. In Game 6, he saved the Astros from elimination with seven scoreless innings, helping propel the club to their eventual 7-1 finish that set up their series-clinching finale on Saturday.

The 34-year-old righty also took his place among some postseason greats. Thanks to an eight-strikeout outing on Friday night, his collective 136 postseason strikeouts are good for sixth-most in MLB playoff history, just a smidgen shy of Tom Glavine (143), Mike Mussina (145), Roger Clemens (173), Andy Pettitte (183) and John Smoltz (199). He also joined Bob Gibson, Curt Schilling and Sandy Koufax as one of just four hurlers to strike out 20+ Yankees in a postseason series.