Minnesota Twins closer Joe Nathan, facing the prospect of season-ending surgery, plans to play catch on Saturday to test the torn ligament in his right elbow, The Star Tribune of Minneapolis reported.
"When I feel loose -- if I do get loose -- I definitely want to test this thing as much as I can for Day 1 and see how it feels," Nathan said Monday, according to the newspaper. "This is going to be something where there shouldn't be a gray area. It's going to be, ' I feel great, or this just isn't me, this doesn't feel right.' "
Nathan was 2-2 with a 2.10 ERA last year, with a career-high 47 saves. His 246 saves over the past six seasons are the most in the majors during that span.
On March 6, Nathan left a spring training game against the Boston Red Sox after feeling tightness in his right elbow. Three days later, the Twins announced the injury, as well as a plan to wait two weeks and see if Nathan could work through it or undergo Tommy John surgery, which usually carries a recovery period of at least a year.
If Nathan is indeed lost for the season, it leaves the Twins, who open a brand-new stadium next month and were widely deemed a contender in the AL Central, without a proven closer. Right-handers Jon Rauch and Matt Guerrier are probably the top two candidates to replace Nathan, but Rauch is the only Twins reliever with even limited prior experience as a closer.
"Whatever happens in my career, I tell everybody you've gotta look at the bright side," Nathan said, according to the report. "For me, if the worst-case does happen, I see it as a chance to prolong my career. I see it as a chance to give myself a new arm and pitch for another five years after this. ... That's the worst-case scenario for me, coming back in 2011 with a brand new arm."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.