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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – The Minnesota Twins have placed right-handed reliever Joe Nathan on the disabled list due to soreness in his surgically repaired elbow. He said he’s prepared to miss between 10 days and a month.
The move was made Saturday retroactive to May 24, and left-hander Chuck James was brought up from Triple-A Rochester to take his place in the bullpen. Nathan’s injury has been diagnosed as a right flexor muscle strain.
Nathan has struggled in his recovery from Tommy John ligament replacement surgery that kept him out the entire 2010 season. He has a 7.63 ERA in 17 appearances.
Nathan, who was to have an MRI test Saturday afternoon, said he’s confident irritation and inflammation is all he’s dealing with rather than more serious damage.
“I think most guys that go through this will have setbacks, obviously,” Nathan said. “My situation in the middle of the season is unfortunate, and you never want to have setbacks that put you on the DL. But we want to take care of this thing and be able to gradually get better as the season goes on.”
Nathan said he still feels “ahead of the game” at the 14-month mark of his surgery.
“You never want to go on the DL, but we feel like this is going to be a good thing for me,” Nathan said. “When I do get back and finish the rest of the season, I want to finish it on a positive note. If we were closer to the front of this pack, it would be a lot tougher for me to go on the DL. But with us scuffling right now, I think it at least makes the decision easier to take care of this and make sure we do the right thing for me going into the rest of this season and on into next year.”
Nathan, a four-time All-Star closer, is making $11.25 million this season. The Twins have a $12.5 million option on his contract for 2012 with a $2 million buyout.
With left-handers Jose Mijares and Glen Perkins and right-hander Kevin Slowey already on the disabled list, Minnesota’s bullpen is in shambles. Three Twins relievers blew a 5-0 lead in the eighth inning Friday in a 6-5 loss to the Los Angeles Angels.
“Those guys have to get it done. That’s who we have. That’s who we are. That’s who has to pitch. I don’t really have an answer. Skittish? I don’t know. Nervous? Absolutely, because we’re not getting the job done,” Gardenhire said.
Gardenhire said he expects Mijares to rejoin the team Monday afternoon for the game at Detroit against the Tigers. James will be the 18th pitcher the Twins have used this season. Because he wasn’t on the 40-man roster, his contract was selected and second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka was transferred from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list, which does not count against the 40-man roster. Nishioka will be eligible to come off the 60-day DL on June 7, which is already in line with his rehabilitation from a broken left leg.
Left-hander Francisco Liriano, who was scratched from his start on Saturday in favor of Anthony Swarzak due to inflammation in the back of his throwing shoulder, is the latest injury concern. He had an MRI test on Saturday that showed no major structural damage or problems, according to head athletic trainer Rick McWane.
Liriano said he’s not worried about this and hopes to only miss one start. He said he’s been feeling discomfort for more than a week that “was getting worse every day” until team doctors advised against pitching on Saturday.
Designated hitter Jim Thome also has inflammation in the back of his left shoulder and was scheduled for a cortisone shot after Saturday’s game. He said he hoped to be able to play on Sunday.
“I’ve had it for a while. It’s just gotten a little bit worse so we want to stay on top of it before it gets worse,” Thome said.
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