MINNEAPOLIS -- After a four-month absence from the field, Twins closer Joe Nathan did something that seemed like a long time coming. He threw a baseball.Nathan tossed a ball with Twins trainer Chris Johnson prior to Monday's game against the Indians. The two stood 45 feet apart and threw two sets of 10 tosses. Since having Tommy John surgery on March 26 to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, Nathan has seen numerous doctors and trainers and has been rehabbing his arm. However, he said that actually being able to throw a baseball and beginning the throwing part of his recovery is an exciting step. "Just to see that the work up to this point is working is very encouraging," Nathan said. "Just to get out here and finally play some baseball, play some catch and not feel any pain, it's very encouraging." Nathan said he and Johnson threw at a slow pace, but that was exactly what the pitcher needed to do to "knock the dust off" of his elbow and shoulder. He added that he got more comfortable with the exercise as it went along and is excited for his next chance to throw, which will probably be on Wednesday. Nathan said he should be throwing from 150- to 180-foot range by the end of the season, but he doesn't want to get too far ahead of himself because it is a long recovery process. "We're right on track. You don't want to say you're ahead of schedule, because with Tommy John surgery, that's usually not a good thing. It usually means there will be setbacks," Nathan said. "So we talk about the importance of being patient and not thinking you're ahead of the game." Nathan admitted that it felt strange at first to throw the ball, but he was comforted by both Johnson and his teammates when they said it looked like the pitcher hadn't taken any days off. Manager Ron Gardenhire also watched Nathan and came away pleased to see the pitcher making strides in his recovery. "I watched him down in the corner lob the ball, which is great," Gardenhire said. "I'm sure he's very excited and wants to throw it a lot farther than he did. I think he's just excited to get back on the field and throw a baseball."
Ankle to sideline Rauch for couple days
MINNEAPOLIS -- It's bad enough that the Twins taxed their bullpen by using five relievers in their 10-4 loss to the Indians on Monday, but they will be even more shorthanded because one of the relievers, closer Jon Rauch, was injured during the contest.Rauch was hit by a Trevor Crowe ground ball in the ninth inning and has a noticeably swollen right ankle. While he finished out the inning, Rauch will need a couple days to let the swelling subside, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. That's not the best news for a pitching staff that gave up a season-high 20 hits on Monday. "Our big concern was Rauch and his ankle," Gardenhire said. "He'll be sore for a day or two. I think we can get through it." Gardenhire said that team doctors X-rayed the ankle and didn't see any broken bones, which is good news for the Twins. However, the hit was hard enough to keep Rauch from playing in the coming days. "His ankle's really ugly off that ball off his foot," Gardenhire said of Rauch. "His tattoos look bigger.
Burnett optioned to Triple-A; Slama called up
MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has said that the club's 25-man roster configuration, which has them carrying 13 pitchers, is temporary. But the numbers remain unchanged despite a move following Monday's game.Right-hander Alex Burnett was optioned to Triple-A Rochester after allowing two hits and a run against the Indians without recording an out. He threw 15 pitches in total. Anthony Slama, who has been putting up tremendous numbers in the International League and recently pitched in the All-Star Futures Game, will take Burnett's place in the bullpen. Right-hander Clay Condrey was placed on the 60-day disabled list to recover from a strained right elbow, making room on the 40-man roster for Slama. "We're going to do that to let Burney go down and pitch," Gardenhire said. "Slama's been doing fine, so we'll get him up here to help us out in the bullpen. Burney needs to stretch out down there and start using all of his pitches."
In his previous 10 outings, Burnett gave up 10 runs off of 18 hits. During that span, he put up an ERA of 11.74.With those numbers, the rookie was going to be sent down to the Minors regardless of how he did in Monday's game, Gardenhire said. The team still has high hopes for Burnett, however, and Gardenhire said that a Minor League stint will be good for Burnett. "He went through a little rough patch, but we really like this young man. He's going to be a very good pitcher for a very long time here," Gardenhire said. "We think he's doing just fine. He's progressing really well, and it's a good time to get him down there." Slama has been hot for the Red Wings, putting up a 1.71 ERA in 43 appearances. In his past 10 games, the right-hander has given up only three earned runs through 13 1/3 innings, giving him an ERA of 2.03. The reliever pitched 1 1/3 innings for Rochester on Monday and gave up one run on four hits. However, despite his recent play, Gardenhire said the Twins won't be able to ease Slama in during his first stint in the Majors. "I don't know if you can right now, we used everybody," Gardenhire said when asked if Slama would have time to adjust before making an appearance for the Twins. "He'll be ready to throw. I know he's been throwing a lot down there, but we'll just mix him in whenever we can. Get him in and let him know."
Young finding footing with runners on base
MINNEAPOLIS -- When Twins left fielder Delmon Young stepped up to the plate in the ninth inning on Sunday with Minnesota down by one against the White Sox, he was the right man for the situation.Young hit a single to right-center that drove in two runs, giving the Twins the 7-6 comeback win and, more importantly, keeping the confidence instilled in his teammates. Young entered Monday batting .402 with runners in scoring position -- placing him third in the Majors and first in the American League. He was seventh in the Majors with 48 RBIs with runners in scoring position this season. "He's been swinging the bat as hard as anyone on our team," Twins right fielder Jason Kubel said. "If we need someone in that situation, I'm comfortable that he's up there. He's been doing it all year, so it just lets you feel more comfortable when he's up there." With big bats in the Twins' lineup like Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer, Young was overshadowed for the past few years. Over that span, however, the outfielder has emerged as someone to watch at the plate. Kubel said that Young has always been a good hitter and has made a number of contributions to the Twins during his three years on the team, but he has grown into a player his teammates rely on even more this "He's always been a good hitter, and he's always hit for a high average," Kubel said. "He's always been capable of doing it and, for some reason, it just hasn't happened. But this year, he's hitting it all over the field hard. He's putting everything together. It's always been there, it's just bigger situations now, and he's knocking a lot of guys in. He's doing a heck of a job." Young isn't the only Twins hitter who has been successful with runners on the bases. The team in general has been leaving fewer runners on the basepaths and scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth on Sunday. Manager Ron Gardenhire said that the club's recent success is a result of batters not hitting balls directly at fielders and finding the gaps in key situations. The Twins finished the weekend batting .291 as a team with runners in scoring position, tops in the Majors. "I think the ball's finding holes a little better," Gardenhire said. "You just go through stretches where everything you hit, I mean, a lot of those double plays we've talked about were rockets right at people. The ball just starts finding holes a little bit. You get the monkey off your back, and you start getting some hits."
Casilla nearing return to Twins
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins' 25-man roster consists of 13 pitchers, but that could end on Wednesday.Manager Ron Gardenhire hinted before Monday's game against Cleveland that infielder Alexi Casilla could return to the team in time for the series finale against the Indians. Casilla has been rehabbing for several weeks after suffering bone spurs in his elbow, but his stint is due to end on Sunday. However Gardenhire said Casilla is "really, really close" to making his return. "He's closer than you think," Gardenhire said. "He's really close. He's not very far mileage-wise either. He's doing good. Everything is going good." Gardenhire said that the team needs to protect itself and its pitchers for the next few days, but he hinted that a roster move would be made in time for Wednesday's day game. Although the manager wouldn't give any specifics, Twins fans have a good chance of seeing Casilla before the homestand is over. "He's within a few days of probably getting out of rehab," Gardenhire said. "We'll see how that holds up."
Twins infielder Matt Tolbert has seen no improvements in his right middle finger contusion. Manager Ron Gardenhire said on Monday that Tolbert experiences discomfort while hitting and throwing the ball. He added that Tolbert will eventually go on a rehab assignment, probably during the Twins' next road trip. ... The Twins scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth inning on Sunday to record a come-back win over the White Sox. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the first time the Twins have scored four or more runs in the last inning of a one-run, walk-off win since June 26, 2001. In that game, Denny Hocking's two-run triple topped off a four-run ninth inning, which happened to give the Twins a 7-6 win over the White Sox -- the same final score as Sunday's game.
Jocelyn Syrstad is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.