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.

Phillies’ Bryce Harper to miss start of season after elbow surgery

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PHILADELPHIA – Phillies slugger Bryce Harper will miss the start of the 2023 season after he had reconstructive right elbow surgery.

The operation was performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles.

Harper is expected to return to Philadelphia’s lineup as the designated hitter by the All-Star break. He could be back in right field by the end of the season, according to the team.

The 30-year-old Harper suffered a small ulnar collateral ligament tear in his elbow in April. He last played right field at Miami on April 16. He had a platelet-rich plasma injection in May and shifted to designated hitter.

Harper met Nov. 14 with ElAttrache, who determined the tear did not heal on its own, necessitating surgery.

Even with the elbow injury, Harper led the Phillies to their first World Series since 2009, where they lost in six games to Houston. He hit .349 with six homers and 13 RBIs in 17 postseason games.

In late June, Harper suffered a broken thumb when he was hit by a pitch and was sidelined for two months. The two-time NL MVP still hit .286 with 18 homers and 65 RBIs for the season.

Harper left Washington and signed a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies in 2019. A seven-time All-Star, Harper has 285 career home runs.

With Harper out, the Phillies could use Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber at designated hitter. J.T. Realmuto also could serve as the DH when he needs a break from his catching duties.