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."