Tigers’ bullpen a concern, but there are positive signs

Joe Nathan gives up two runs, an RBI single by Yoenis Cespedes and an RBI double by Josh Reddick in the Tigers' victory.

Kyle Terada

The Tigers’ bullpen remains an area of concern although there are some recent positive signs.

Although closer Joe Nathan got the save in Thursday’s 5-4 victory over the Oakland A’s, it was not perfect nor easy.

Nathan gave up two runs, an RBI single by Yoenis Cespedes and an RBI double by Josh Reddick.

That came one night after Nathan blew a save and the game, serving up a three-run home run to Josh Donaldson in a 3-1 loss.

"I think if Joe’s on, you’re going to have quick outs," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus told FOX Sports Detroit’s Trevor Thompson on the post-game show. "He’s been one of the best closers, he had an unbelievable year last year. If he’s on, he’ll get quick outs. It just wasn’t today."

There’s nobody we’d want out there better than him.

Joba Chamberlain

Perhaps the 39-year-old closer was fatigued after pitching three days in a row. Or he might be experiencing another dead-arm period like he did earlier in the season.

It’s hard to know for sure as Nathan declined comment when asked by reporters in Oakland, telling them, "Talk to the guys who did their part. Write whatever you want."

It would be unrealistic to expect Nathan to reproduce the season he had last year with the Texas Rangers, when he was 6-2 with a 1.39 ERA, 43 saves and 0.90 WHIP.

Nathan’s teammates are not worried.

"The guy’s got 360-plus saves, he’s kind of been in every situation," Joba Chamberlain told Thompson. "There’s nobody we’d want out there better than him. Obviously coming back after (Wednesday), being able to get on the mound and get us a win and get a save is huge. He’s a horse for us down there. He’s our leader and we learn a lot from him. He continues to teach us every day and it’s fun to hand him the ball."

After throwing three days in a row, including 26 pitches Thursday, it’s more than likely that Nathan will have Friday off whether the Tigers have a save situation or not.

While Nathan’s struggles persist, the Tigers do have a couple of positive things coming out of the bullpen.

On Thursday, left-hander Ian Krol came into a bases-loaded situation and got Derek Norris to pop out to end the threat.

"Norris has been cold, sitting on the bench all day so I tried to get ahead, throw strikes," Krol told Thompson. "I wasn’t really thinking up there, just trying to make my pitches and get out of it for Ricky.

"It’s awesome, it’s always a good feeling when you help out another pitcher."

Said Ausmus: "We had a pretty good idea they were going to pinch hit for (John) Jaso, like they did the other day. But we also know that Krol, although he’s much tougher on lefties, he’s gotta be able to get righties out as well and he got the job done. It was a huge out at the time, obviously."

Krol earned his ninth hold and his ERA improved to 2.45.

Al Alburquerque walked two batters in the seventh but managed to get himself out of trouble, lowering his ERA to 3.22.

Chamberlain has settled into the eighth inning nicely and allowed one single, collecting his 11th hold. His ERA is 2.82.

"We’re actually coming into our own," Krol said. "Everybody knows their own role now and everybody’s pretty comfortable down there. We’re just going to keep doing what we do and make pitches and hopefully things go our way."