Big League Stew - MLB

There's no rite of spring more depressing than the first superstar going down with a major injury and it looks like Joe Nathan(notes) might be that player in 2010. 

The Twins closer told reporters in Ft. Myers on Tuesday morning that he has a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow and is weighing the possibility of season-ending Tommy John surgery. 

First, though, he'll give his arm some rest and then test out his pain threshold. With the opening of Target Field looming and the Twins set to defend their AL Central title, Nathan wants to be 100 percent sure that he can't tolerate the pain before going under the knife.

From the Star Tribune

"I'm going to do whatever I can right now to give myself the best chance to go out there and help this team out,'' Nathan said, "but at the same time, I'm not going let this go on too long because at the same time, I know these guys have a decision to make, and they've gotta prepare for the season, too, so I will make a decision quicker rather than later and give them ample time to do what they have to do.''

As Roto Arcade mentions, Ron Gardenhire's replacement options could include Matt Guerrier(notes) and Jon Rauch(notes). Guerrier is coming off a great 2009 season, but he would be far from the dominant presence that Nathan has been with a 1.87 ERA and 246 saves over the last seven seasons. There are few players who are bigger game-changers in the AL Central right now. 

One more thing: The national spotlight has always found its way to Justin Morneau(notes) and Joe Mauer(notes). The focus is deserved, but it always overlooks how Nathan provides the Twins' bullpen the same security that Mariano Rivera(notes) gives the Yankees. If Nathan's worst fears are realized and surgery is needed, the casual baseball fan will learn just how underappreciated he's been.  

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