Nathan, citing sore shoulder, backs out of Classic

Updated: March 1, 2009, 7:01 PM ET
Associated Press

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Minnesota Twins closer Joe Nathan will skip the World Baseball Classic because of soreness in his pitching shoulder the past five days.

"I think we backed off it early enough to where it won't be an issue," said Nathan, who aggravated the AC joint, which connects the collarbone and clavicle at the top of the shoulder.

Nathan called the decision not to play for Team USA a difficult one. It leaves B.J. Ryan of the Blue Jays or J.J. Putz of the Mets as the likely closer candidates.

"It's going to be difficult to watch it, for sure," Nathan said of the Classic. "At some time, I have a responsibility for the Twins. It was a decision everybody agreed upon. It was a tough decision to make."

The 34-year-old Nathan was 1-2 with a 1.33 ERA and 39 saves last season. He has averaged 39.8 saves over the past five years.

Nathan said he felt fine after a bullpen session Sunday morning before the Twins played the Boston Red Sox in a Grapefruit League game. But Nathan said he wanted to be extra cautious. Playing in the WBC, he said, would not allow him to do so.

"That's the one advantage I have of being here," Nathan said. "If there's a day I can back off, I can. Being there wouldn't allow me to stay on the schedule I need. I think I'm on the right track now. If things go well, I can be in a game on Thursday."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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