Joe Nathan opts for "Tommy John surgery" and looks forward to 2011 season

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Joe Nathan's looking forward to opening day -- in 2011.

Confirming worries that started March 6 when he complained about tightness in his right elbow in a pre-season game against Boston, the Twins' 35-year-old All-Star closer -- 47 saves last year -- says he's going for "Tommy John surgery."

That tightness was diagnosed as a torn ulnar collateral ligament, and it came after surgery in the off season that removed painful bone ships from his elbow.

The new surgery, named for the former L.A. Dodgers pitching great on whom it was first performed, will sideline Nathan for a year.

From the Star Tribune:

Nathan played catch with pitching coach Rick Anderson this morning. It was Nathan's first throwing session since he suffered a significant tear of his ulnar collateral ligament on March 6.

"Didn't go like we hoped," Nathan said. "We knew it was a long shot, but what this did do is clear my head. Definitely was no gray area. Definitely was on the black side, where it didn't go as well as we like, and we know now we're going to have to go in and get some surgery done, get this thing fixed up."

What now? John Smoltz?

On a brighter, if costly, note: St. Paul native and reigning ‚ÄčA.L. MVP Joe Mauer has agreed to a new eight-year/$184 million contract extension to stay with the Twins through 2018.

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