Joe Nathan, dealing with a flexor strain in his right elbow, made a rehab start with Triple-A Toledo on Wednesday. Unfortunately for him and for the Tigers, the right-hander had to leave with a trainer while facing his third batter, having thrown only 10 pitches, after appearing to aggravate his elbow injury. He was scheduled to throw 25 pitches.
Nathan, 40, said he felt a pop in his right arm. “It feels like I broke my arm. I never have broken my arm, but I would assume this is what it feels like,” Nathan said, per MLive.com’s James Schmehl. Neither Nathan nor the Tigers were willing to speculate on the issue on Wednesday, but more clarity should be provided on Thursday. Nathan was initially placed on the disabled list two days after his first and only appearance of the season, a 1/3-inning stint against the Twins on Opening Day in which he recorded a strikeout of Torii Hunter for a save in a 4-0 win.
Manager Brad Ausmus said not too long ago, “that’s the plan” in reference to Nathan reclaiming his role as the Tigers’ closer. That would send interim closer Joakim Soria back to setting up. But it looks like Soria will stick in the closer’s role for a while longer. Soria has done a superb job, converting all five save chances with a 1.35 ERA and a 4/0 K/BB ratio in 6 2/3 innings to start the season.
Given Nathan’s struggles last season – he blew 7 saves with a 4.81 ERA and a 54/29 K/BB ratio in 58 innings – along with his age, many thought Soria was the more reliable option to serve as the team’s closer entering the season. Inadvertently, Nathan’s injury forced the Tigers to put the better pitcher in the ninth inning, which will likely pay dividends for the Tigers – and fantasy owners savvy enough to snag Soria late in drafts – over the course of the season.
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Dancin’ with Melancon
Pirates closer Mark Melancon blew Tuesday’s save opportunity against the Cubs, allowing three runs in the ninth inning in what became a 9-8 loss. He has allowed runs in two of seven games this season, both saw three runs in total. He carries an 8.53 ERA with a 4/3 K/BB ratio in 6 1/3 innings.
According to Brooks Baseball, Melancon’s fastball has averaged under 90 MPH to begin the season after sitting 93-94 throughout the 2014 season. His cutter is also below 90 MPH after sitting 92-93 MPH in 2014. When informed of the data, Melancon said he was unaware, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported on Tuesday.
Manager Clint Hurdle said – also per Sawchik -- Melancon would not be available for Wednesday’s game against the Cubs, but that he would be sticking with Melancon as the team’s closer. The Pirates brought a 4-1 lead into the eighth inning, but Jared Hughes faltered and Tony Watson had to be brought in to put out the fire. Watson, who throws from the left side, recorded six outs for his first save of the season.
The Pirates, with Wednesday’s win, improved to 7-8, three games behind the division-leading Cardinals. It’s early and the Buccos are still very much competitive, but if they continue to hemorrhage games due to Melancon, they’ll be forced to make a ninth-inning change. They could move to a closer-by-committee, perhaps giving Hughes opportunities against a slate of right-handed hitters and Watson time versus lefties. If they do identify one specific new closer, Watson is likely to be that guy. As a result, he’s worth stashing in leagues with deep rosters.
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Greg Holland to Throw Over the Weekend
This wasn’t intended to be a column focusing heavily on closers, but most of the more pressing news recently has revolved around them, and they do have critical fantasy importance. Royals closer Greg Holland landed on the 15-day disabled list on April 18 with a Grade 1 pectoral strain. The right-hander will start throwing again over the weekend, Saturday or Sunday, according to MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan. Holland reported feeling better, and all signs point towards the right-hander being activated at the soonest possible date.
In the interim, Wade Davis has performed admirably, nailing down both save opportunities with which he was presented, facing the minimum six batters with three strikeouts in two innings. It’s no surprise as Davis excelled last season, finishing with a 1.00 ERA, setting up behind Holland. However, Davis will return to the eighth inning once Holland returns from the disabled list.
Fantasy owners shouldn’t fret about Holland’s injury. He was 2-0 with three saves and an 8/1 K/BB ratio in seven innings prior to the injury. Barring a setback, the Royals should see Holland back in the ninth inning shortly after the calendar turns to may.
Jose Bautista Suffering from Sore Shoulder
Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista was scratched from Wednesday’s lineup versus the Orioles as he was unable to make warmup throws due to a sore shoulder. Bautista had been dealing with shoulder soreness for over a week and it was aggravated on Tuesday when he attempted to throw Delmon Young out at first base from right field. He underwent an MRI that revealed a strain.
Bautista will almost certainly be held out of Thursday’s lineup as well, and there’s an increasing possibility the slugger will need to move to the 15-day disabled list, per Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi.
Discussing his decision to attempt to throw out Young at first base, Bautista said, “It didn’t feel too bad when I did it, but as I sat in the dugout and went back out for defense, yeah, it did start getting a little sore. That’s when I first said, ‘That wasn’t the smartest thing to do.”
In 59 plate appearances to begin the season, Bautista hasn’t hit much for average, batting just .149. However, he has hit four home runs and knocked in 10 runs while drawing a league-leading 11 walks. His .322 on-base percentage and .426 slugging percentage are acceptable considering how low his average is. The high-powered Blue Jays offense will certainly miss Bautista’s bat in the three-hole should he need to be shelved for a couple of weeks. Obviously, fantasy owners will be none too happy either, as Bautista went 10th overall in the first round on average in Yahoo fantasy drafts.
National League Quick Hits: Lucas Duda’s eight-inning RBI single against the Braves sent the Mets to their 10th consecutive win on Wednesday … Braves catcher A.J. Pierzynski went 3-for-3 with a walk and a double on Wednesday and is now hitting .391 in 26 plate appearances … Anthony Rendon (knee) has been cleared to begin a rehab assignment on Friday with Double-A Harrisburg … Cole Hamels remained winless despite limiting the Marlins to only an unearned run in six innings on Wednesday … Marlins starter Jarred Cosart beat his former team on Wednesday, allowing one run over six innings against the Phillies … Kolten Wong had his second consecutive three-hit game, knocking in three runs in Wednesday’s win against the Nationals … Dexter Fowler left Wednesday’s game with right groin tightness and is considered day-to-day … Reds outfielder Marlon Byrd continued to struggle on Wednesday and is now 6-for-52 with a 16/0 K/BB ratio … Pirates reliever Tony Watson recorded six outs for his first save of the season against the Cubs on Wednesday … The Brewers optioned struggling reliever Tyler Thornburg and his 5.59 ERA to Triple-A Colorado Springs on Wednesday … The Dodgers acquired left-handed pitcher Xavier Cedeno from the Nationals for cash considerations on Wednesday … Padres manager Bud Black said on Wednesday that Jedd Gyorko and Yangervis Solarte may split time at second base going forward … Aaron Hill started over Yasmany Tomas at third base versus the Rangers on Wednesday … Rockies reliever John Axford was activated from the restricted list and tossed a scoreless eighth inning on Wednesday … Giants pitcher Ryan Vogelsong will start against the Dodgers on Thursday.
American League Quick Hits: David Ortiz hit his 469th career home run in Wednesday’s loss to the Rays … Ubaldo Jimenez allowed his first runs of the season, giving up four in total, in a loss to the Blue Jays on Wednesday … Yankees outfielder Chris Young had another three-hit game on Wednesday, going 3-for-6 against the Tigers, and is now batting .368/.442/.816 in 44 plate appearances … Devon Travis continues to hit, homering to send the Blue Jays past the Orioles on Wednesday … Rays outfielder Steven Souza left Wednesday’s game against the Red Sox with a right forearm cramp and is day-to-day … David Price was hit around by the Yankees, giving up eight runs in 2 1/3 innings on Wednesday … The Royals hope to have Omar Infante (groin) back in the lineup over the weekend … Jose Abreu clubbed his fifth home run in Wednesday’s win against the Indians … Brandon Moss provided the Indians’ only extra-base hit in a shutout loss to the White Sox on Wednesday, but is batting just .162 … Mike Pelfrey dominated the Royals with seven shutout innings in a win on Wednesday … Astros starter Brad Peacock (intercostal) is likely to miss several more weeks … Ben Zobrist (knee) will do baseball activities on Thursday and could return to the lineup on Friday … C.J. Wilson’s next start was pushed back to Saturday due to elbow stiffness … Wandy Rodriguez still start for the Rangers against the Angels on Friday … The Mariners signed outfielder Carlos Quentin to a minor league deal on Wednesday.