6/10/2014 1:07 A.M. ET
Struggling Nathan to remain Tigers closer
By Joe Popely / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Struggling Tigers right-hander Joe Nathan is back in the closer's role after being given the day off Sunday.
Manager Brad Ausmus made it clear that regardless of Nathan's recent string of hiccups, he would have given his oft-used closer the day off. Nathan had pitched in back-to-back games prior to Sunday, giving up a pair of runs against the Red Sox on Saturday that increased his ERA to 7.04.
That move didn't work out either. Fill-in closer Joba Chamberlain served up a three-run homer to David Ortiz in the ninth inning on Sunday to blow the save and give the Red Sox a 5-4 win. In other words, The Tigers' ninth-inning problems date back to 2012 and have turned into a broken record. Ausmus wasn't pointing any fingers.
"I'm in charge of this team. It doesn't go beyond me," Ausmus said. "We have to find a way to get the areas of the team that aren't performing well to perform well. That's our job as a manager and a coaching staff. We'll continue to do that. The ninth inning has been a weakness, obviously, for us. But it's only been a third of the season. If we can get the ninth inning to return to form for the next two thirds, I think we'll be in outstanding shape.
Detroit signed Nathan to a two-year, $20 million contact before 2014 in hopes of curing the problem. Instead, after Nathan allowed just two earned runs and went 7-for-8 in save opportunities over a nine-game span from May 7-27, he's allowed at least two earned runs in four of his last five outings. Ausmus said Nathan and pitching coach Jeff Jones have worked together to correct any mechanical issues.
If that doesn't work, Ausmus will have to find other options.
"I'm not really thinking that far ahead. Right now, Joe is and has been the closer the whole year," Ausmus said. "The only times he hasn't closed have been games that I've felt it was best to give him a rest. If there's a bridge that needs to be crossed sometime down the road, I'll cross it. Right now, I'm not even considering it."
Miggy to DH until hamstring fully recovers
CHICAGO -- Miguel Cabrera's left hamstring apparently feels good enough for the two-time MVP to take some swings, but not quite good enough to play the field.
Cabrera, who exited Sunday's loss to the Red Sox in the sixth inning after his left hamstring tightened up, hit third for Monday's series opener against the White Sox, while Victor Martinez hit cleanup and took Cabrera's spot at first.
"Yeah, he said he felt a lot better coming in today," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said of Cabrera. "He's going to get the hamstring worked on and go through the pregame stuff and as long there are no unforeseen issues, yeah, he'll DH."
Fortunately for the Tigers, the injury doesn't sound like something that would force Cabrera to the disabled list, and Ausmus said it's not related to similar injuries last year. The club considers Cabrera to be day to day and will evaluate him accordingly, which means it's unclear how long Cabrera will DH before he's fit to return to the field.
Ausmus said that in an ideal situation, Cabrera would return to playing field when he feels "nothing" in his hamstring. He also noted that Cabrera was knocked out of the game against the Rangers on May 25 because of a right hamstring cramp but returned to play first base the next day, and this appears to be roughly the same situation.
"You know, I'm not sure how I'd classify it. It doesn't seem to be a strain," Ausmus said. "Maybe it's a cramp, kind of tightening of part of the hamstring tissue. I'm not a professional, but that's kind of what it sounds like. He acted like it kind of tightened up on him as opposed to being overly stressed or stretched."
Ausmus was also faced with choosing between schools of thought. One the one hand, it makes sense for Cabrera to play the field so he can keep his hamstring warm -- but that could also put him at further risk for aggriavting it. On the other hand, his hamstring could get cold by DH-ing, therefore putting more stress on his hamstring when he does hit. The Tigers will keep Cabrera active to combat the latter.
Cabrera stayed active Monday night by hitting a solo homer in the fourth inning of a 6-5 loss. He finished 2-for-4 and scored twice.
• Entering play Monday, the Tigers' 4.77 bullpen ERA was the worst in MLB. It dropped to 4.69 -- only ahead of Houston's 4.76 -- following three shutout innings during the 6-5 loss to Chicago.
• Martinez entered Monday's game a career .327 hitter with 31 doubles, 22 homers and 92 RBIs in 151 games against the White Sox. He only added to those numbers with a two-run homer, a double and two RBIs during the loss, and has at least one hit in 16 of his last 17 games against Chicago.
• Detroit, which is 4-3 against the White Sox this season, has won 25 of its last 37 games over Chicago dating back to May 15, 2012.
• Monday marked the start of 14 consecutive games against American League Central foes. Following the four-game series in Chicago, the Tigers return home for three-game sets against the Twins and Royals before they finish up with three in Cleveland.
Joe Popely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.