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03/26/10 8:56 PM ET
Nathan undergoes Tommy John surgery
Twins closer hopeful to return for '11 Opening Day
By Kelly Thesier / MLB.com
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Joe Nathan underwent a successful Tommy John surgery on his right elbow on Friday, the Twins reported. Mets physician Dr. David Altchek performed the surgery in New York and took a tendon from Nathan's left wrist and placed it in his right elbow to replace the torn ulnar collateral ligament. Twins general manager Bill Smith said that they discovered in surgery that the ligament was completely torn. The injury is believed to have occurred while Nathan pitched in an exhibition game against the Red Sox on March 6. "The doctor was very pleased [by the outcome]," Smith said. "The report that I got was that everything looked great. There was nothing else in [the elbow] of any concern. So Dr. Altchek was very pleased." Nathan will miss the entire 2010 season as he recovers from the surgery, but he has expressed optimism that he will be ready to go for Opening Day '11. The 35-year-old pitcher will fly back to Fort Myers, Fla., from New York on Saturday and will begin the rehab process. Smith said that Nathan will do his rehab in Minnesota during the season, although he added that the club is still working on all the logistics of the situation. In the past, it hasn't really been an option since the club didn't have the proper facilities at the Metrodome to allow a player to rehab. But with Target Field, Smith said it will be a little easier and the club will have someone there to help Nathan through his rehab. "For the season part, we're going to do [the rehab] in Minnesota and let him be a part of this team when the team is at home," Smith said. Nathan is coming off a 2009 season in which he set a career high and a franchise record with 47 saves to help Minnesota win the American League Central title. Since 2004, Nathan had recorded the most saves in the league (246). The Twins still have not made a decision on who will be their closer for the 2010 season. The club is exploring possible trade options as well as looking at its internal choices, which include Jon Rauch and Matt Guerrier or possibly moving Francisco Liriano into the role.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.