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Twins place Nathan on DL, call up James

May 29, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS — Twins reliever Joe Nathan was placed on the 15-day disabled list after Saturday’s 1-0 win over the Angels with a right flexor muscle strain, suffering his first real setback since having Tommy John surgery last year.

To fill Nathan’s spot, the Twins selected the contract of left-handed reliever Chuck James from Triple-A Rochester, with second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka moved to the 60-day DL to make room on the 40-man roster.Nathan has soreness in his right elbow and underwent an MRI on Saturday afternoon that showed a little inflammation but no major structural damage.

The results will also be sent to Dr. David Altchek, who performed Nathan’s surgery last March.

“We obviously hoped he wouldn’t have any problems, but I wouldn’t say it’s uncommon to have a setback here or there with what he’s going through,” head trainer Rick McWane said before Saturday’s game. “He’s getting better, but it’s just a matter of him getting over the hump.”

McWane and Nathan said that no one was especially worried about the setback, they just wanted to be cautious with Nathan, who is only 14 months removed from the Tommy John surgery he underwent just prior to the start of last season.

Nathan said he expects to take some time to allow his arm to heal with the treatment he’s been undergoing this week before resuming a throwing program. After that, he said he thought he would go down to Fort Myers, Fla., and throw in a couple extended spring training games.

“Just get back to what worked so well for me then,” Nathan said. “Using more fastballs, get my extension where it needs to be. I feel like since Day 1, I’ve been competing and just trying to put up zeros any way I could.

“I kind of got away from what I’ve always done well. So, I’ve been throwing a lot of breaking balls, a lot of curve balls, and that’s not really going to help me with my extension so much. That’s almost hindering me from getting extended when I try to throw fastballs.”

Nathan was thinking positively about going to the DL, saying he thought it was “going to be a good thing for me when I do get back and finish the rest of the season.” As far as a timeframe for his return, Nathan said he is prepared for anything from 10 days to a month.

Anything longer than that, he said, would be unexpected.

He added that while you never want to go on the disabled list, the decision comes a little differently for him with the way the Twins have been playing through the first two months of the season.

“If we were closer to the front of this pack and competing, it would be a lot tougher for me to go on the DL,” Nathan said. “But with us scuffling right now, I think it at least makes the decision easier to go in, take care of this and make sure we do the right thing for me going into the rest of the season and on into next year.”

James will join the Twins in time for Sunday’s series finale against the Angels.

In 19 appearances with the Red Wings this season, James posted a 1-1 record with a 1.57 ERA, allowing just five earned runs over 28 2/3 innings of work. James also recorded 37 strikeouts against nine walks.

“He’s pitched well,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Chuck James has thrown the ball well.”

In the past, James had some success with the Braves as a starter. Over four years with Atlanta, James went 24-19 with a 4.61 ERA in 55 starts. He allowed 153 earned runs in 298 2/3 innings, striking out 223 with 120 walks.

He also posted a 2.12 ERA in nine relief appearances with the Braves, allowing four runs on 10 hits in 17 innings.

James’ addition to the roster gives the Twins a wealth of left-handed options in the bullpen, as he joins fellow lefties Dusty Hughes, Phil Dumatrait and Jose Mijares, who could rejoin the club as soon as Monday in Detroit. Asked about it after the move was announced, Gardenhire said he just wants the best pitchers available, whether they’re lefties or righties.

“It’s an interesting situation, I’ve never had that many lefties out in the bullpen,” Gardenhire said. “[Rochester pitching coach] Bobby Cuellar said that Chuck James gets them out. It’s not always pretty, he’s up in the zone a little bit, but he knows how to get them out. He’s pitched in the big leagues, so hopefully he’ll continue that here.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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