Notes: Soria getting close; Nathan fine

DETROIT — The Detroit Tigers bullpen appears to be getting stronger as they head into an important series.

Joakim Soria on Monday took an important step in returning to the Tigers, and closer Joe Nathan is apparently fine after experiencing some elbow tenderness.

Soria threw a simulated game Monday and felt good afterwards.

"I threw a full live BP," Soria said. "I’m ready to go. I’m excited to feel better, and I’ll try to help this team as much as I can. We did a big step (Monday), and hopefully it feels good (Tuesday)."

Tigers manager Brad Ausmus watched Soria throw 27 pitches.

"He looked good, real good, strong," Ausmus said. "He didn’t look like anything was bothering him. He said he felt good afterwards, said he didn’t even get tired.

"All signs are pointing in the right direction. We just gotta make sure (Tuesday) he comes in and there’s no issues."

Soria has been out with a left oblique strain since Aug. 10.

Ausmus said Soria would be given at least one day before the Tigers activated him.

"If he comes back and he feels fine (Tuesday) and we activate him, we probably still have to be careful in terms of usage, at least initially," Ausmus said. "But I’d still expect him to be pitching towards the back end of the bullpen."

Nathan hasn’t pitched since Sept. 2 at Cleveland, and Ausmus revealed why Monday.

"We probably would have stayed away from Joe (Sunday) regardless, but he’s good to go (Monday)," Ausmus said. "He was having a little elbow tenderness that was taken care of.

"I’ll talk to him today, but I don’t expect any issues. He’s had a few days off now."

CABRERA AT DH; KELLY BACK IN LINEUP

Even before Sunday, Ausmus was leaning towards putting Miguel Cabrera at designated hitter Monday.

That became definite after Sunday’s game.

"Sometimes he runs and it gets aggravated, sometimes he runs and it doesn’t," Ausmus said. "(Sunday) night it was aggravated when he was rounding the bases. But for me, it was too early in the game to remove that bat from the lineup.

"I can’t anticipate a double. If we’re talking about the ninth inning, now it’s a different story. At that point in the game, it was too early to remove Miggy’s bat because you know he’s going to come up again."

Ausmus reiterated that it would be a daily discussion for the rest of the season with Cabrera on how his ankle feels.

"We talked about it a few weeks back," Ausmus said. "He and I had a discussion in my office about it. He’s been good. If I ask him how he’s feeling, he tells me. Generally, I get the sense he’s telling me the truth."

Don Kelly was back batting sixth and playing center field Monday after doing so Sunday night.

"No one’s injured," Ausmus said. "He’s had some decent at-bats against (Royals starter Jeremy) Guthrie, and we’d like some left-handed bats in there as well against him. So we decided to go with the same lineup."

Kelly is 6-for-20 (.300) lifetime against Guthrie. Rajai Davis is just 4-for-19 (.211), and Ezequiel Carrera has not faced him.

RELISH FACING ROYALS

The Tigers no longer have to check the scoreboard to see how the Central Division-leading Royals are doing.

With the Royals at Comerica Park the next three days, the Tigers have some control over how they do.

"We have an opportunity to face the team that’s above us in the standings, and the best way to catch that team is to play them," Ausmus said. "That’s the opportunity."

The Royals (79-62) are two games ahead of the Tigers (78-65).

"I’d rather be 15 games up," Ausmus said. "But very rarely in the game of baseball do things go as people plan.

"I played on a team in Houston in ’05 that was supposed to run away with the Central. I think we snuck in as a wild card. It rarely goes as you expect it to go. It’s a lot more fun having an opportunity if you’re not."