There is some bad news coming out of Twins spring training, with Michael Cuddyer having problems with a wart on his foot, Joe Mauer getting some treatment on his knee that was operated on in the offseason and the ongoing question about when Justin Morneau will return to the lineup after his concussion problems so that he can return to being the great player he was before being sidelined last season.
But the good news from Fort Myers, Fla., is that pitcher Joe Nathan, who had Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery a year ago, believes he is even better off as a pitcher than he was before the surgery.
"Right now, I mean if you come out here, now it probably looks pretty normal to where I usually am at this stage," Nathan said. "Normally, I come in shape and usually the [velocity isn't] there yet, but I'm doing everything they have on the board, and everything looks normal right now, so that's a good sign."
Nathan said he hasn't had to hold back on anything.
"It's been a blessing, everything has gone very well, and even afterwards it feels better than it did before surgery. There's always going to be soreness and some things you've got to take care of afterwards with icing and stuff like that, but that comes with the territory. I've been through some things, so I know the difference between the soreness, everyday soreness, and being injured. Right now, I'm going through things that you normally do in spring training, and it feels great.
"We haven't had to hold back on anything. We'll see when games get going and we get gearing up for that. We'll play it by ear as we get there, but right now, everything is a full go. I'm doing all the drills so it feels good to be out there and working out with the teammates again."
The four-time All-Star closer, who has saved 246 games since coming to the Twins in 2004, is happy with his control.
"I'm able to locate, which is always a concern coming back how the release point is going to be, and everything is coming out pretty good," Nathan said.
The righthander said he isn't surprised how well things are going because he expected it after getting a good report from his surgeon following the operation.
"He just told me it went a lot better than a lot of cases," Nathan said. "Normally any time you go in for Tommy John, it's Tommy John. There's no way to write it up any differently. They're replacing a ligament. For me, fortunately, though, besides the clean tear that I had in there, he was able to repair that and keep my tendon that was there as well as put the new one in. So I guess I have kind of two ligaments that have kind of -- I don't know the technological explanation of it -- but I guess I have two that kind of form together, so hopefully it's twice as strong."
Talking about his rehab, Nathan said: "Very tough. You know, it's part of the rehab, going through the mental side as well as the physical side of it, especially wanting to be out there and helping your teammates out and going through the grind with them. At the same time, those are things that make getting back here in spring training so special and make me feel like a rookie all over again.
"I've got the nerves out there just for doing drills and stuff like that. It'll be exciting when games get rolling and we get into this thing. It's nice. I feel like I've gotten some years back and I feel like a young kid again."Anderson gets job
New Gophers football coach Jerry Kill really did Thomas Hammock a favor when Kill kept the running backs coach, the only assistant coach retained from Tim Brewster's staff. By keeping Hammock, Kill had to demote his previous running backs coach, Brian Anderson, and make him a quality-control person.
So when Hammock left for Wisconsin last week, there wasn't any real loss to the coaching staff, because it meant Anderson got the same position he had under Kill at both Southern Illinois and Northern Illinois.Jottings
• If a group of downtown Minneapolis businessmen had their way, they would favor the farmers' market location not too far from Target Field as the site of the new Vikings stadium. However, that site would be a lot more costly to build on than the Metrodome site.
• How about the record of Gophers men's track and field coach Steve Plasencia, who after winning the Big Ten indoor championship this past weekend has now won five conference titles in a row, three indoor and two outdoor. Yes, since he took over as track coach, he has won every Big Ten indoor and outdoor meet of which he has been a part. The Gophers won even though Hassan Mead, who had won five conference titles before he was sidelined this past year because of both an Achilles' tendon injury and a collapsed lung, didn't do well in his official return to action. Mead finished 11th in the 3,000 meters, and he did not finish the 5,000. It will take time to get this great athlete back in shape.
• Gophers men's basketball coach Tubby Smith was in Memphis this past week watching recruit Andre Hollins score 15 points after the guard for White Station High School had scored 38 in his previous game. Smith and director of basketball operations Joe Esposito also were in California recently where they scouted Yuba College 6-3 sophomore Julian Welch and offered him a scholarship. He could start for the Gophers next year and give them the point guard they badly need.
• Gophers men's hockey coach Don Lucia has had good and bad news about his two hockey-playing sons. About 2009-10 Gophers captain Tony, he was signed by the San Jose Sharks and is with Worcester of the American Hockey League. "He had a tough year, he got a concussion back in October and he has not played since," Don said. "It's been frustrating for him. We see these concussions in all sports now. He's starting to practice again and work out, but as of yet he still hasn't been cleared to play." On the other hand, Mario, a junior at Wayzata, is rated with the best players in the state. "He's a pretty good player," his dad said. "He's got size that a lot of people like, about 6-2, and they got a real nice team at Wayzata. He's fortunate to have great coaches and great teammates to play with." Wayzata plays Eden Prairie and Burnsville plays Edina at Mariucci Arena in a very attractive Class 2A section championship doubleheader on Wednesday night.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. • firstname.lastname@example.org