Game 7: A day in the life of Joe Nathan

This is what Joe Nathan told Sirius/XM Radio’s Adam Schein about his season to date when Wednesday began:

I think the club has overcome me not throwing as well as I’d like to. I think I’m still at a case of maybe some dead arm going right now. Usually that happens to the middle or later part of spring and hopefully you get through it. But mine is going more into the season and I’m still fine tuning things but fortunately it hasn’t hurt us too much and my tougher outings still resulted in wins for us. So [I’m] very happy about that and I just look to continue to improve for this ball club and be as consistent as I can.”

A few hours later, this is what Nathan told the Tigers beat writing corps when asked about his dead arm comments:

“It’s not an injury. It’s something that every pitcher goes through every year. It’s not even newsworthy. You guys shouldn’t even waste your time writing about dead arm, because it’s basically like knowing there’s second base on the field.”

About seven hours, two dozen Nathan pitches and three runs later, this is what Nathan said about his second blown save of the year and any relation to his dead arm:

“The results obviously [stunk], but I felt like I got better tonight, to be honest with you. I felt like my stuff was good. My stuff got better tonight. My stuff got closer to where I want it to be, especially with my slider. A lot of pitches, even ones that missed, were very close, if not good pitches that could have been called strikes, very borderline pitches, where I want them. …

“Results, not where I want them to be, but a lot of times you have to not pay attention to results and just pay attention to the way the ball’s coming out of your hand. Tonight’s one of those situations I got to feel good about the strides I made tonight. Fortunately, again, it didn’t cost us. We had some guys step up and Victor, huge in the top of the 10th, and then the boys came in after me and pitched outstanding.”

The quotes aren’t presented to suggest inconsistencies, though Nathan seemed clearly surprised and maybe slightly irked it had become an issue before the game. They’re meant to show the evolution. What began as a talk radio question and became an issue Nathan seemingly wanted to kill ended as a struggle he suggested he was already pitching through.

“You’ve just got to keep throwing,” Nathan said early in the day. “Unfortunately, there’s no secret to getting through it quicker. It’s just one of those things that will hit guys throughout the course of a year and you never know when it is going to be or how long it is going to last. All you can do is continue to throw and throw through it and hopefully one day you come there and the ball is coming out of your hand a lot cleaner and with a little more zip on it.”

If this is the turning point for a dead arm issue that wasn’t even a topic until earlier in the day, then the turn was well-hidden. But it wasn’t as complete of a disaster as the pitching line, either.

“His stuff looked as crisp as we’ve seen it,” manager Brad Ausmus said, “and he felt that was the best stuff he’s had, in terms of the break on the slider and the fastball coming out of his hand.”

He got an uptick in fastball velocity, a question that had popped up last week in Detroit as his fastball hid around 90 mph. His home-run ball to Adrian Gonzalez leading off Wednesday’s ninth inning was a 90 mph fastball. By the time the save situation became a mess, Nathan gave up Dee Gordon’s game-tying single on a fastball at 93.

“The pitch to Gordon, we doubled up inside and he just got quick on the second one,” Nathan said. “He’s been one of those guys that put together very, very good at-bats [this series]. When [catcher Victor Martinez] called a second fastball in, it actually threw me for a loop, so I thought he might not be looking for it. But he turned and burned on a pitch that was inside, so credit to him in a big spot.”

In this case, however, it was the command that doomed him, walking Andre Either and Matt Kemp to put the tying run on base with nobody out and in scoring position soon enough. Yet even the control, Nathan suggested, wasn’t as far off as the walks seemingly argued.

“I actually felt it in the bullpen, felt like the stuff was coming out, right from the start of the 10th inning,” Nathan said. “Even with the home run, I think it was more a result of Gonzalez. He can hit the ball away pretty well, and we went away with three pitches. Probably not the best idea to a guy that can hit for power going the other way.

“I think I threw some pretty decent pitches that could’ve turned the count from like 1-1 to 0-2 and change the at-bats. But again, I’m not paying attention to results here. I’ve got to think positive and know that my stuff’s getting where it needs to be. Fortunately it didn’t cost us a win. We had other guys step up and pick me up tonight. Now it’s about getting better for this club, and dwelling on what I’ve done to this point is not going to help us. It’s about getting better and doing what I need to solidify wins in the future.

“To be honest, the pitch I struck Puig out on [for the first out], I thought, was one of the sliders on that side of the plate that probably wasn’t a strike. There were other ones I threw throughout the inning that I thought were better pitches. ”

He’ll get ample chances to improve. Nathan’s outlook on dead arm continued to evolve Wednesday, but manager Brad Ausmus gave every indication that he’ll get the ball the next time the Tigers have to protect a ninth-inning lead.

Make no mistake, for all the current turbulence, this is the Tigers’ closer. There’s no Joaquin Benoit setup type in waiting, no new Bruce Rondon this early in the year. Besides, the rest of the Tigers bullpen has had struggles of its own. This is the closer who was by far the biggest acquisition the Tigers made this winter, and they didn’t sign him to a two-year deal only to give him a break barely a week and a half into the season.

“You can try and pinpoint what it is,” Ausmus said. “I think the fact that he said his stuff felt better tells me the first couple times, it didn’t feel that great. It means he’s moving in the right direction. I think also, closers are going to blow saves, and they seem to come in bunches, but they don’t come in bunches often. …

“Joe, he’s a proven commodity. He’s closed games. He’s blown saves. He knows how to deal with the failure. The mark of a good closer is one who can handle letting his entire team down and coming back the next day and closing the game.”




I trusted Valverde about 5% more than I trust Nathen right now.

Wow is all I can say. I went to bed in the middle of the 5th with a 2 run lead and wasn’t sure what to expect this morning. Then I turn on the tv and the replay was happening and it was based loaded bottom of the 9th, so am happy I got to see the big hit from Victor – that dude can sure be clutch sometimes. Congrats to Castellanos on his first big league home run – a game changer for sure. We need to come up with a nickname for him, that is a long name to type! Bullpen once again will be causing us all some heartburn this season I fear. Good game to win, nice split for them, just not used to seeing all these bases getting stolen!

Castellanos: inhabitant of a castle . Maybe Castle or just NC like every player here

Now that I see the box I see a tip of the hat to Smyly, looks like he did a terrific job. And nice hit by Sanchez, fun to see the pitchers get a chance to affect the offense. What a gutsy call on that squeeze bunt by Beckett.

Papa Nathan? Sheesh even Papa wouldn’t have gone on the radio and said the team is overcoming his shitty performances.
Dombrowski did a real bang up job this offseason.

Nathan will make it good.
BUT, Ausmus has to have Smyly (who he is presumably stretching out for his upcoming start) pitch to Adrian and Ethier. All the stars were aligned for Smyly to stay in and have Joe ready if NEED be.

I have no issue with Joe Nathan. He knows what he’s doing and he’ll be fine after this rocky start.
I do have an issue with this: “Joe’s the closer,” Ausmus said. “He’s pitched well against the guys on that roster. It wasn’t his night, but there was no question in my mind Joe was pitching the ninth.”
On most nights, yes, but last night Smyly had put those guys to sleep and it wasn’t luck. He’s a starter and could have finished that game easily. We’ve had this situation happen before. This was a unique situation, but a manager automatically going with a closer just because he’s the closer has always irritated me. Jim was the same way; bring in the closer regardless of the circumstances. “I do that everytime” was his explanation for things and it drove me nuts.
I did see Victor’s homer but that was all. Even though I work from home, I still have to start at a reasonable hour. Sounds like it was very exciting in the bottom of the inning. Perhaps I’ll look at it later.
Got the split which I didn’t expect. Good job.

Hate to say it but I think we have another poppa grande. Who thinks he is the best . But we will have to wait and see. and btw I still think Coke is done too

There are 7 (seven!) more games starting at 10:10 PM. Cries of anguish are heard throughout the land.

Rich, you said the games this year were going to be exciting!

I guess I did. What’s remarkable so far is the seven homers in seven games.

What I like about Nathan is that’s he’s all business. No dancing bears, no shooting imaginary arrows into the sky, etc. That’s kid stuff. Finish the game, shake hands, and leave the field.
Now, if he’ll just finish a game……. 🙂

Couldn’t agree more, Rich. There is no comparison of Jose V and Nathan. We were lucky for the one great year VV had. The spitting water on entry became synonymous with nausea. Nathan has plenty of time to make corrections. We have lived dangerously through seven games, with five W’s. And Miggy has really not been a huge impact in any of those W’s. We have plenty of time to make necessary corrections. There were three good happenings in last night’s game:
1. Speed! it is going to create a few more wins than last year. Kinsler and Davis at the top of the order can really help to manufacture an early lead in critical games.
2. Drew’s strong performance. Outstanding job for three(Should have gone at least one more). He seems so relaxed. Looking forward to his starting again, but dread the void his starting creates.
3. Victor in the lineup. Decent enough job behind the plate. Too good of a hitter to stay on the bench. Brad has to keep on with using Victor in various capacities. Sorry Alex. Step up or step aside.

Kudos also to Ajax and Nick for their continued offense. Also, Sanchez finally settled down enough to finish the fifth. Let’s get the Pen straightened out, and get this game rolling. Until later.


I’m watching the game right now and reading all of your differing opinions, I’ll chime in with mine after the “game,” You gotta be kidding me. He actually put Nathan in there? No wonder I had a migraine. My brain told me I couldn’t watch.

Even knowing the final outcome, it was torture to watch. My recording stopped in the 7th inning. Luckily FSD was showing the condensed version from noon to 2:00 so I got to watch the 9th. OMG, I felt bad for Nathan. I thought pitchers were supposed to rest if they have a dead arm. He looked like he was in agony. The rest of the BP came through big-time. Not really understanding Brad’s thought process with his use of the BP, but it’s still early. Castillanos looks really good, aside from the mental mistakes. Good to see Tyler finally get a hit and Anibal persevere through 5 innings.
It wore me out just watching. Unlike Brad, Don Mattingly shows all his emotions on his face.

It is not uncommon that when one part of a system is broken or compromised, it affects the other parts of the system negatively. Ultimately causing the system to fail. Is baseball much different?

And to be fair, Grande has pitched better far than Nathan this year so far:
Nathan — 3.2 IP, 9.8 BB/9, 4.9K/9
Grande — 4.1 IP, 2.1 BB/9, 12.5K/9
Not to say this will last, but when you put all your bullpen money into 1 player this is the risk you run.

Avasail Garcia out for the year – surgery on his torn labrrum in his shoulder.

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Who’s next? Be careful Jake Peavy??

Actually you’d think Peavy to be the chief candidate to be injured among the three.

too bad for Avi Garcia, guy has a lot of promise and season ending surgery stinks for anyone. Watched papa save the game last night, just had to chuckle…

Can we trade Gonzo and Coke for Valverde? pleeeeaaaasssssee?

valverde 1.7 BB/9, 11.8K/9, 6.8H/9 in 5.1 IP

This BB/9 is better than Joba(4.5), Nathan(9.8) and Coke(13.5)
This K/9 is better than Nathan(4.9), Smyly(9.0), AL AL(5.4), Krol(10.1) and Reed(3.9)
And his H/9 is better than Nathan(14.7), AL AL(16.2), Joba(22.5), Reed(7.7) and Coke(40.5)

Nathan has 3.2 IP, Smyly 6.0 IP, AL AL 3.1 IP, Krol 2.2 IP, Joba 2.0 IP, Reed 2.1 IP and Coke 0.2 IP

NO! I swear I will turn this car around and nobody gets ice cream……..

He’s also pitching in the National League. My dog could probably save games for a NL team

Rich are we theeeeeerrrreeeeee yet? good point too Mike. and good for papa, who says you can’t teach an old potato new tricks?

Alex may be giving us a fore-warning of his own expectations of himself. This is a man who needs to accept the challenge of being a two-way player. He has to contribute offensively. It is unacceptable to adopt the mentality that his only job is to catch and call a game behind the plate. Other major league catchers, current and past, have been excellent hitters and fearsome offensive forces for their ball clubs.
This quote below sound much to INGE-like to my like.
“Tigers catcher Alex Avila was impressed that Martinez could hit a homer after such a long night behind home plate.

“That is not easy to do,” Avila said. “When you’re catching a game like that, it’s exhausting. It’s easy to lose focus because of how tired you are.”
C’mon Alex, buckle down, do both your jobS, quit looking for excuses. If you submit to being a .220 hitter you can expect the defense will also suffer eventually. Then you are no longer a 1st string catcher.

good comment

He was trying to compliment Victor for that 4:16 hr game. Doesn’t explain why he hit better in the second half of last season. I can’t figure out Alex’s up and down offense.

and, yet, some people were yelling at me because I wanted A.J. Pierzynski.!

I get that. I also feel, and freely admit it is only a “feeling”, that Alex does not have that little extra something that makes him want to be the best. I really like the guy and feel he could be a nationally known back catcher if he had the drive of a guy like Kinsler or Verlander.
OK —–I’ll shut up about it now.

It’s a valid subject. There are some local media who also wonder about Avila’s offense since he has a good swing and a good eye. It’s one a’ them thar enigmas. I hope he’s a late bloomer.

either way, it’d be nice to see him go a full season without being injured. As it’s been said many times, Alex plays too frequently.
And I’ll bet Vmart was sore as heck yesterday, but still glad he caught.

Ok where in the world is the batting order for tonight?

Look at the right side of the page. Jason tweeted the order. Kelly in for Torii and Miggy at 3rd, Romine at SS. Of course the weather is absolutely beautiful in San Diego. Picture perfect. Guess what, Tigers. It’s been the same right here in ‘ol Michigan. Almost 70 degrees today, not a cloud in the sky. Even warmer tomorrow and then back to winter next week.

Thanks, I’m using my i-phone instead of my computer and I can’t see the right hand side of the page.

Lineup is out there. It features a 6,7,8 of Kelly RF, Avila, and Romine.

Peralta,new jda and bosox hipocrisy ,david ortiz?

You got that right!

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