Nathan, Thome back, Wright progressing


It's Friday! The weekend is almost here! And who doesn't love some good news heading into the weekend?

So that's where we begin.

The Minnesota Twins are welcoming back reliever Joe Nathan, who has been on the DL with a flexor strain near his right elbow. Of course this is the same elbow on which he had Tommy John surgery last year. Nathan has done well in his recovery, most recently with several outings for Triple-A Rochester. It sounds as if the Twins will have Nathan return in a setup role. Whether he overtakes Matt Capps for the closer role remains to be seen.

The Twins are also expected to have designated hitter Jim Thome back this weekend, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. For the better part of June, Thome has been battling a back problem which led to issues with his left quadriceps. He received an epidural injection (into the spine) and has made enough progress that the Twins are ready to bring him back. He will join the team for the series against the Brewers. As Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said, "that's great to have him [to] come off the bench."

Rarely lately does it seem like the New York Mets have good news to share but they sure did Thursday night. Third baseman David Wright, out since May with a stress fracture in his lower back, was cleared to resume full baseball activities after a follow-up CT scan and doctor's visit. Wright has been working diligently on strengthening his deep abdominal muscles (which help stabilize the spine) and doing creative work like fielding grounders on his knees. Now he will progress back to baseball drills standing and taking swings, followed by an eventual rehab assignment. While his return date is not set in stone, general manager Sandy Alderson said the team hopes for "maybe three weeks." The key for Wright will be translating the core stability he's been working on to the highest level baseball activities, particularly those that stress the spine in extension and rotation (think: leaping for a catch, diving headfirst and, of course, swinging a bat). There is good reason to expect Wright to do well once he returns, especially if the rest of his rehab proceeds without incident.

Notice I said we'd begin with the good news. Unfortunately Thursday also signaled a couple of setbacks, perhaps a serious one in Philadelphia.

Anyone who has been watching Phillies pitcher Roy Oswalt recently knew something wasn't right. His history of a chronic disc problem in his low back certainly raised suspicion that it was acting up once again. It came to a head Thursday night when Oswalt made an early exit because of soreness in his back. He looked stiff, awkward and clearly uncomfortable on the mound and it translated to his pitching. Oswalt described his delivery as, "... more heaving the ball than throwing it." Finally last night he confessed to just how much his back has been bothering him, telling reporters, "I feel it when I sit down, stand up, walk, pitch, sleep." Oswalt is scheduled for another MRI on Monday but little is likely to come as a surprise, given that he has been dealing with this issue off and on for years. And he seemed resigned to whatever lies ahead. "Hopefully it's not to the point where I can't throw anymore," Oswalt said. "If it's at that point, you just have to accept it." Even if he is able to return, it is not likely to be anytime soon. Fantasy owners, it might be time to move on.

New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter is still experiencing soreness in his right calf. In other words, he is not likely to return from the DL June 29, when eligible. At this point Jeter is limited in his workouts as a result. General manager Brian Cashman told the New York Daily News, "He can't do anything with his legs." That would indeed make it difficult to field, swing a bat and, most significantly, run. Until Jeter is symptom-free his workload will not be increased and then he will need to remain symptom-free before any sort of game play is entertained. Consider the assessment of Jeter day-to-day at this point with no definitive return date established. The Yankees' move to place him on the DL is looking even wiser in retrospect.