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.

Kris Bryant exits game with sprained right ankle

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The Cubs had a scare on Wednesday night when third baseman Kris Bryant left with an apparent ankle injury. In the bottom of the fifth inning, Nationals catcher Matt Wieters hit a pop up that veered just into foul territory near the third base bag. Bryant caught it but his momentum took him back into fair territory. In doing so, he stepped awkwardly on the third base bag and appeared to twist his ankle. Bryant needed the assistance of manager Joe Maddon and the team trainer to get off the field.

Bryant was diagnosed with a mild ankle sprain, CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney reports.

Bryant was 2-for-3 on the night before departing and being replaced by Jeimer Candelario. He’s now hitting .264/.395/.520 with 16 home runs and 32 RBI in 329 plate appearances. Needless to say, the 39-39 Cubs would see their playoff odds hurt immensely if Bryant were to miss a significant amount of time.

Miguel Sano will participate in the 2017 Home Run Derby

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Hector Gomez reports Twins third baseman Miguel Sano will participate in the 2017 Home Run Derby, to be held in two weeks at Marlins Park in Miami. So far, Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton is the only other confirmed participant.

Sano, 24, is having an outstanding season, batting .274/.375/.548 with 18 home runs and 53 RBI in 293 plate appearances. According to MLB’s Statcast, only Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge (96.7 MPH) has a higher average exit velocity than Sano (96.4 MPH).

Brian Dozier was the last member of the Twins to participate in the Home Run Derby. In 2014 at Target Field, Dozier failed to make it into the second round after hitting only two home runs. Justin Morneau is the only Twin to have ever won the Home Run Derby, as he beat Josh Hamilton 5-3 in the finals of the 2008 Derby at Yankee Stadium — although Hamilton out-homered him in total 35 to 22.