Joe Nathan has allowed just one earned run in his last five appearances. (Robin Buckson / Detroit News)
Detroit – Well, that probably rules out Huston Street.
Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski said in a national interview Wednesday that the team is confident Joe Nathan has turned the corner, and that if the Tigers do add bullpen help ahead of the trade deadline, it’ll likely be for a seventh- or eighth-inning guy.
“Well, we do not need a closer at this point, so we would not look for that,” Dombrowski said on MLB Network Radio. “We may need a little bit of help in the bullpen, maybe middle relief.
“But we’re not looking for that closer, and that gives you a very comfortable feeling.”
Nathan, 39, signed this offseason to a two-year, $20 million contract, has been a mixed bag in the ninth inning this year. He started well enough, but then had a disastrous stretch, before turning it around lately, with seven strikeouts in his last three innings.
Dombrowski credits Nathan and pitching coach Jeff Jones for turning things around.
Dombrowski said the Tigers coaching staff discovered Nathan was pitching with a different arm slot than last year, when he was lights-out for the Rangers. So they dropped his arm angle a few inches, and the results have been impressive, particularly with the command of the slider.
“I know sitting in my spot, I feel a lot more comfortable when he comes in the game,” Dombrowski told hosts Jim Bowden and Casey Stern.
Dombrowski also said he’s been very impressed with the work of Joba Chamberlain, who’s been near-brilliant in the eighth inning after signing a one-year, $2.5 million contract this winter.
The Tigers do still have Joel Hanrahan, signed this spring. A two-time All-Star closer coming off Tommy John surgery, the right-hander remains in Lakeland, Fla., rehabbing. The team hopes he can join the bullpen sometime next month – and maybe be the missing piece.
In any event, the Tigers figure to know just what they need well ahead of the July 31 trade deadline.
“I could not tell you if he’d be ready to do that and be counted on in August and September,” Dombrowski said of Hanrahan. “I’m not saying he won’t, but I can’t say that he will be.
“He’d be the ideal type of guy for us.”