Nathan starts long-tossing, Rondon still on hold
Joe Nathan wasn’t expected to pick up a baseball for at least a week after his elbow flexor strain. A week has passed. So after Justin Verlander threw his simulated game at PNC Park early Wednesday afternoon, Nathan was spotted in the outfield long-tossing, up to 120 feet.
“It’s nothing to write home about,” Nathan said, “but for the first time playing catch, it came out of my hand better than I thought. The ball was really carrying today. It felt easy, too. I wasn’t trying to jump on anything. It was just kind of floating through and getting there with ease.
“Not getting too excited about it, but the first session went according to plan.”
That puts him on a path towards a return, though that’s still a little ways out. He’ll continue playing catch this week with the possibility of a mound session at some point this weekend, then more work next week. That, in turn, puts Nathan on a path towards returning to the Tigers bullpen, where Joakim Soria has filled in skillfully at closer.
Asked if Nathan will retake the closer role upon return, manager Brad Ausmus said, “That’s the plan. We’ll see what happens, but that’s the plan. The most important thing, obviously, is to get him back. Our bullpen is stronger with Joe in it.”
Bruce Rondon, meanwhile, is not throwing again yet. He was playing catch at some point last week, then was held back for treatment over the weekend. He has not yet resumed throwing.
“He’s scheduled to pick up a ball Friday,” Ausmus said of Rondon, who opened the season on the 15-day DL with biceps tendinitis.
Asked what that might entail, Ausmus said, “They told me he’d pick up a ball, so I can’t tell you. He might pick it up and put it right back down.”