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Updated: June 19th, 2011 11:55am
Valencia's arm 'feels a lot better;' Nathan could return Friday

Valencia's arm 'feels a lot better;' Nathan could return Friday

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- With the Minnesota Twins already having dealt with an unrealistically large barrage of injuries this season, it wouldn't have been a shock had third baseman Danny Valencia needed time on the disabled list with an arm strain he suffered on Saturday night.

But that doesn't appear to be the case.

"We don't think it's anything serious," said head athletic trainer Rick McWane.

Valencia, who strained his arm while making a throw in the eighth inning of Saturday's 1-0 win, said it "feels a lot better than I thought it was going to feel" upon arriving to the ballpark on Sunday. "It's more in my triceps than my biceps right now, and (I'm) really day-to-day."

Matt Tolbert subbed in at third base for Valencia in Sunday's game against the San Diego Padres. The Twins have an off day Monday, but Valencia said he'll "hopefully be good to go Tuesday" when the team travels to San Francisco to face the Giants.

Nathan fans two, could return Friday

Right-hander Joe Nathan tossed a scoreless inning for Triple-A Rochester on Saturday night, striking out two, and manager Ron Gardenhire told 1500 ESPN he is hopeful Nathan can rejoin the bullpen on Friday when the team travels to Milwaukee.

"He threw really good (Saturday) night and felt great," Gardenhire said.

"Hopefully we're going to go back and give him two days (of rest) and then go back-to-back, Tuesday and Wednesday, and see how he gets through that. Tuesday will be the big test, if he can have a nice outing Tuesday then it'll make it easy for him to go back Wednesday and out there."

Nathan was placed on the disabled list on May 28 with elbow tenderness, and he spent time throwing to live hitters in Florida last week before heading out on a rehab assignment with Rochester this weekend.

Prior to being sidelined, Nathan struggled with command, issuing nine walks in 15 1/3 innings and throwing a first-pitch strike to only 55% of the batters he faced in the first two months back from Tommy John surgery.

Nathan's average fastball velocity was down from 93.6 mph in 2009 to 91.4 mph post-surgery as well, and hitters made contact on 82% of their swings, as opposed to 70% pre-surgery.

But with this recent setback, Nathan said more scar tissue broke free around his elbow, which could help strength and range of motion in the muscles.

"He's really pumped up and really excited," Gardenhire said. "The ball's coming out of his hand. He feels as good as it has in a long time, so that's a positive. ...

"When he came out of spring training we thought the ball was coming out of his hand at times really good. We knew it was about going to be about consistency, and he didn't have consistency with it, and that's kind of what you expect after a surgery like this. So hopefully by breaking some of this stuff loose as he says, and feeling more comfortable with his arm altogether, and starting to know what the feeling is like when you're breaking stuff loose rather than breaking something really loose, I think he knows the difference now that he's just getting his arm stretched out, and he knows that feeling. So that probably helps him mentally, and that allows him to throw the ball."

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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