Detroit Tigers: Joe Nathan’s leash, first cuts, Justin Verlander pleased


As we discussed earlier this week, the Detroit Tigers seem content to go forward with Joe Nathan as their closer.

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He pitched a second-straight scoreless game to another round of boos in Lakeland on Tuesday, but with prior results MCB staffer Tom Zahari explains in his bi-weekly Freep article that it will be different this year and Nathan’s leash will be short.

The Tigers made their first cuts of Spring Training and there were no real surprises, except maybe Luke Putkonen. Each player has been assigned to minor league camp.

In the same game that Nathan pitched, Justin Verlander started. The Tigers’ ace had yet to allow a run over two starts this season but all that changed against Washington as he allowed four runs and two homers. Nonetheless Verlander, who hadn’t surrendered a run in two Spring Trainings, said he was happy with how he pitched even though the results (as often happens in Spring Training) did not accurately portray it.

Leash on Joe Nathan should be short – Tom Zahari, MCB Special to Detroit Free Press

"Nathan’s pitch selection and velocity also changed in 2014. Nathan threw 35.4% sliders in 2013 compared to 29.0% in 2014. Nathan’s slider was his out pitch and strikeout pitch while he was with Minnesota and Texas and his lack of a slider led to more hard contact. Nathan made up for his lack of sliders with an increase in curveballs. Nathan’s fastball also lost velocity in 2014. In 2012, Nathan’s average velocity was 94.0 m.p.h. That decreased to 92.2 in 2013 and 91.6 in 2014. Nathan still had his slider to go to in 2013, which is why he was still successful.Fans cannot expect perfection from Nathan in 2015, but he obviously needs to be better. Only three closers last year had more than 35 saves and fewer than four blown saves in 2014.Steamer Projections has Nathan better in 2015, but not back to being the dominant closer he was with the Twins and Rangers. Steamer projects Nathan at a 3.80 ERA, 3.71 FIP, and 1.29 WHIP. These numbers wouldn’t be exactly what the Tigers are looking for from Nathan, but they are far better 2014."

Tigers cut three non-roster relievers from camp – Jason Beck, Beck’s Blog

"With the busiest stretch of Spring Training games now complete, the Tigers made their first significant cuts of camp Tuesday, sending non-roster relievers Luke Putkonen, Joe Mantiply and Omar Duran to minor-league camp.The moves whittle Detroit’s camp roster to 52 players. The next round of cuts appears unlikely until after the Tigers’ next set of split-squad games March 22.None of the moves were of particular surprise, though Putkonen made an early exit after making last year’s Opening Day roster. The 28-year-old spent most of last season rehabbing from elbow problems that landed him on the disabled list in mid-April. He underwent cleanup surgery last summer, but avoided tearing any elbow ligaments."

Tigers lose to Nats, but Verlander pleased with outing – Anthony Fenech, Detroit Free Press

"Verlander allowed his first Grapefruit League runs in over a year – he pitched a scoreless spring in 2014 – surrendering four runs on five hits, including two home runs. He didn’t have his slider, which he termed “horrible,” but said he was pleased with his other pitches. “Typical spring start where the numbers don’t show up but I’m pleased,” he said. He struck out three, walked nobody and threw 60 pitches."

Next: Tigers Drop 5th Straight to Washington Nationals