Tigers’ Nathan anxious to get back on the mound

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Lakeland, Fla. – The best way to erase a bad taste is with a fresh, new one.

The Tigers wanted closer Joe Nathan to throw a bullpen session Saturday following his six-run (four earned), five-hit outing Thursday. He had a better idea.

“He said he wanted to pitch in a game,” manager Brad Ausmus said.

Nathan is scheduled to pitch an inning against the Phillies in a split-squad game here, and results aren’t necessarily what Ausmus is looking for.

“I want to see him get ready and prepare,” Ausmus said. “It’s still just spring training. But regardless of who’s pitching, hitting or playing the field, you want to see them do well. Joe wanted to get out there again. I hope he has a better day.”

The velocity on Nathan’s fastball Thursday registered mostly in the high 80s, but that, pitching coach Jeff Jones said, wasn’t unusual for this time of spring when pitchers are still building arm strength.

And with Nathan these days, velocity isn’t the main barometer on how he’s pitching.

“Joe’s always been a guy who could throw multiple pitches,” Jones said. “He’s got a good curve, good slider, he can sink it and make it tail. Nothing has changed in that regard. He still needs to use all his pitches and locate all his pitches.”

The two split-squad teams – the other traveled to Tampa to play the Yankees – were thin on regulars Saturday. Catcher Alex Avila (back), second baseman Ian Kinsler (shoulder) and left fielder Yoenis Cespedes (quad) were not available.

Ausmus said Avila was feeling well enough to do some baseball activities (hit in the cage). Kinsler was scheduled to take treatment Saturday and Cespedes was scheduled to take batting practice.

All are expected to return to game action within the next two days.

Chris McCosky on Twitter @cmccosky