Joe Nathan cruises through second appearance after Tommy John surgery

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Joe Nathan turned in a hitless inning Tuesday in his first appearance back from Tommy John surgery and he took another measured step forward earlier today, needing just nine pitches to retire the Rays in order.

Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported that Nathan reached 95 mph on the stadium’s radar gun. We can’t know for sure if that’s anything close to accurate, but according to Kelly Thesier of MLB.com, Nathan was most encouraged by his ability to set up Jose Lobaton for a swinging strikeout to end the inning.

“The last hitter, especially, it really started feeling like my timing was getting better,” Nathan said. “It’s just getting a little more comfortable.”

“That last batter, I almost concentrated on what he was doing and how he was reacting to certain pitches,” the reliever added. “That’s a good sign that I’m getting away from just thinking about what I was doing.”

Nathan feels like he’s to the point where he can pitch every other day, but tells Thesier that he’s working this spring so that he will be able to throw on back to back days. In other words, he wants his closer role back.

Odúbel Herrera has homered in four consecutive games

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Phillies outfielder Odúbel Herrera produced what proved to be the game-winning hit on Wednesday afternoon, drilling a go-ahead solo home run to right field off of Cardinals reliever Sam Tuivailala in the bottom of the seventh inning. The Phillies went on to win 4-3, as the bullpen actually held on to a lead for once.

Herrera has now homered in four consecutive games and in five of his last six contests. The major league record is eight consecutive games with a home run, held by Don Mattingly, Dale Long, and Ken Griffey, Jr. The Phillies record is five consecutive games with a homer, held by Dick Allen, Mike Schmidt, Bobby Abreu, Chase Utley (twice), and Rhys Hoskins.

On the season, Herrera is batting .299/.355/.491 with 12 home runs, 41 RBI, and 35 runs scored in 297 plate appearances.