Twins must now consider a Plan B

Updated: March 14, 2010, 2:40 PM ET
By Buster Olney
Justin Morneau chatted as he devoured a turkey sub in front of his locker Saturday, and he recalled that when he got hurt last year, the Twins had the depth to fill the gap, with Michael Cuddyer sliding over to play first base and Delmon Young and Jason Kubel sharing in the outfield rotation.

The Twins also lost Kevin Slowey to an injury, and they had enough depth: Brian Duensing stepped in and did a great job, and Minnesota moved on. But Joe Nathan's torn ligament is seen within the Twins' clubhouse as being a little different. As Morneau said, there really isn't anybody else who can easily slide into Nathan's role and do what he has done for the Twins over the past five years.

Nathan's stature within the Twins' organization explains why, when manager Ron Gardenhire got the call late Monday night with the news that Nathan had a tear, that his reaction was an "Oh my." It's the reason Gardenhire felt the need to speak to his team about Nathan, to remind the Twins that their thoughts should be for Nathan and what he is going through, rather than on the lingering question about who would step into Nathan's huge shoes as closer if Nathan cannot do the job. "I really felt bad for him," said Gardenhire, "because I know how much he cares.

"When you get down to the eighth and ninth innings -- we tried to use him in the ninth inning only -- but it's that comfort zone. You get through eight innings, with a one run lead or more, and you've got that guy at the end and you feel pretty good about it. You don't take it for granted ever in this game, but as almost a sure thing, he's been pretty close to that."

There is some hope that Nathan will be OK. The pitcher has been getting second opinions on his injury, and he is not being told that he definitely needs to have reconstructive surgery. So he will pick up a ball in the next week or two and play catch and see how he feels.

But his status is tenuous enough that the Twins are beginning the process of sorting through potential Plan B's.