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'Scary' pain forces Nathan from rehab appearance

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Tigers closer Joe Nathan, on a rehab assignment with the Toledo Mud Hens, leaves the game injured with Mud Hens trainer Chris McDonald during the seventh inning of their game with the Louisville Bats on Wednesday at Fifth Third Field in Toledo.

Toledo — Tigers closer Joe Nathan made his rehab appearance Wednesday for Triple A Toledo.

He retired the first two Louisville batters on nine pitchers when he entered the game in the seventh inning and Toledo trailing 5-2.

Pitch No. 10, however, proved to be too much.

After the pitch, a swing and miss by Bryson Smith, Nathan winced in pain after hearing a pop.

After pitching coach Mike Maroth and trainer Chris McDonald went to the mound to check on Nathan, he tried one more practice pitch, throwing the ball into the dirt before exiting.

"I wish I had information for you guys, but until I know more …" Nathan said to a handful of reporters following the game. "All I do know is I felt discomfort, gave it some time because you never know when you feel something like that, if it's scar tissue or something maybe.

"I tried to just play catch when I got back on the mound, just trying to play catch with the first one and if that felt good, go from there, but I still felt it. Definitely pain, obviously. I'm sure you could see that, whether on TV or whatever."

Said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus: "He thought maybe it was scar tissue ... So we're going to get him checked out. Generally speaking, you're concerned about a pop, regardless of whether it's a pitcher or a position player."

On Monday, Nathan threw his first bullpen session since straining his elbow flexor April 7, coming away from the outing optimistic about his next step. He has pitched once this season, getting a save in the opener April 6.

Nathan says he felt good in the bullpen before taking the mound, then even better pitching to the first two batters.

"It's frustrating, just weird how I could sit there and prepare myself, feel like we've done what we needed to do to get to this point," Nathan said. ""Things went well the first two hitters, everything felt good, down in the zone, locating pretty well. Even falling behind the second guy, even the ones that I missed I just missed so I was real happy.

"That's why it's scary and disappointing. Just that one pitch came out of the blue and caught hold of me."

When asked if it felt like a different kind of pain or from the same spot, Nathan said "I wish I knew more. I have never broke my arm in my life, but I would assume this is what it feels like. Until we go find out what's going on, I don't want to speculate."

Ausmus said Nathan would undergo tests when he returns to Detroit.(tests)

"I'm not going to get into exactly what he's getting done because I'm sure he'd have to get more than one test and probably be looked at by multiple people," he said. "We'll wait for that to happen. That's in the process of starting right now."

Nathan struggled last season (5-4, 4.81 ERA, 35 saves), his first with the Tigers, with a career-high seven blown saves after a solid 2013 with the Rangers (6-2, 1.39, 43).

Nathan, eligible to come off the disabled list Wednesday, was hoping to make a return to Detroit soon, although his role is unknown.

Joakim Soria has settled in as the closer, sharing the AL lead with five saves and a 1-0 record and 1.35 ERA. He has not been scored upon in seven of eight appearances.

"It's frustrating because I think he felt like he was close; it's frustrating for us because we felt like he was close," Ausmus said. "We're a better bullpen with Joe in it. So if it's extended, it hurts."

david.goricki@detroitnews.com

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Chris McCosky contributed