May 29, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Joe Nathan (36) reacts during the ninth inning against the Oakland Athletics at O.co Coliseum. The Tigers defeated the Athletics 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
#1 Joe Nathan
Remember how excited we all were when the Tigers signed Joe Nathan? Despite his advanced age, he has shown throughout his career that he can get the job done and was coming off arguably a career year with the Texas Rangers in 2013. It all had the recipe for success. No more roller coasters, no more nail biting in the ninth, no more blown or almost blown saves.
Those smiles and excitement quickly melted away when Nathan began struggling late in Spring Training and cumulated with a blown save in the second game of the season.
Despite his struggles, Ausmus refused to pull him from that role. Even when Joakim Soria was brought in with no clearly defined role, and Nathan continued to struggle, he was not removed.
I have a feeling that it will be different in 2015 if the closer struggles. The Tigers won’t wait around for him to “find it.” But as a Tigers’ fan, even if you detest Nathan (and his relationship with the fans was contentious at times), you have to hope for his success in 2015.
If the Tigers go into 2015 with their current bullpen makeup, removing Nathan from closer would be catastrophic. If Nathan, in the final year of his two-year deal, can’t cut it again, I don’t see him being moved anywhere else in the pen, he will likely be released as Oakland did with Jim Johnson last year.
It would mean Soria and Rondon would need to slide down and reduce the depth (what little depth there currently is) of that unit.
Joe Nathan needs to reach back and channel his previous success. Anything other than that, including a repeat of 2014, would be a nightmare for the 2015 Detroit Tigers.