Joe Nathan likely headed for minor league rehab assignment

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According to MLB.com beat writers Rhett Bollinger and Jordan Schelling, right-hander Joe Nathan told reporters in Fort Myers, Florida on Wednesday that he is ready to return to the major leagues.

Nathan has been building the strength of his arm with semi-daily throwing sessions since the beginning of June and even tossed a live batting practice session Wednesday morning to catcher Joe Mauer and top infield prospect Miguel Sano.

But the Twins’ coaching staff isn’t quite convinced. They’re still disheartened by the 15 runs that Nathan allowed in his first 15 1/3 innings and probably second-guessing his early return from Tommy John surgery.

Here’s manager Ron Gardenhire, speaking to MLB.com:

“I read a report that he’s really close, but that’s to be decided,” Gardenhire said. “Our plan is for him to go to Triple-A and face hitters in a game situation two or three times. I guess there’s a discrepancy. He believes he’s ready to go. I heard that, I read that. So we’ll have a conversation with him.”

That conversation will probably go something like this:

GARDENHIRE: “Hey, Joe, how’s the arm feeling? How’s the elbow?”

NATHAN: “All good, skip. Ready to get back at it.”

GARDENHIRE: “Great, we’re sending you out on a rehab assignment. Pack your things for Rochester.”

Sorry if you were expecting comedy there. In my defense, minor league rehab assignments aren’t very funny. I suppose I could’ve added a “fire it through the internet” line to Gardy’s dialogue. For Aaron.

Cubs sign sinkerballer Steve Cishek

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Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Cubs have signed reliever Steve Cishek. No details about the deal are known yet. For what it’s worth, most relievers are signing two-year deals so far this winter and Cishek’s last deal was a two-year pact.

Cishek, 31-year-old sidearmer who throws a surprisingly fast sinkerball, posted a 2.01 ERA and a 41/14 K/BB ratio and allowed just 26 hits in 44.2 innings between the Mariners and Rays last season. He saved 25 games for the M’s in 2016. Last year he missed the first month and a half of the season following hip surgery, but seemed pretty healthy later in the year.

A nice pickup for Chicago.