7/20/2014 6:20 P.M. ET
Tigers option VerHagen back to Triple-A
By Matt Slovin / MLB.com
DETROIT -- After making his Major League debut Saturday in Game 1 of the Tigers' doubleheader vs. the Indians, Drew VerHagen was optioned back to Triple-A Toledo on Sunday.
VerHagen pitched well for four innings but ran into trouble in the fifth, when the Indians were seeing him for the second time. The 23-year-old righty took the loss, exiting after five innings in which he gave up three runs on five hits.
No corresponding move was needed, as VerHagen was called up in an invocation of MLB's 26th-man rule, which allows teams to carry an extra player for doubleheaders.
The Vanderbilt product, who isn't known as a strikeout pitcher, managed to punch out four Cleveland batters through the first two innings.
"I think, just realizing it was a cool opportunity for me, I wasn't really worried," VerHagen said of the experience. "I just kind of took it all in."
Nathan bounces back with spotless ninth
DETROIT -- By now, in his 14th big league season, Joe Nathan has accepted the fact that the closer is an easy scapegoat on any baseball team.
"When things go bad, they're all over you," Nathan said Sunday, a day after he gave up three runs in the ninth inning of a tie game that the Tigers eventually lost to Cleveland. "When things go well, they cheer."
This time, Nathan was the recipient of cheers after his 1-2-3 ninth ended the Tigers' 5-1 win over the Indians.
Nathan has been an enigma this season, and his rough night Saturday forced manager Brad Ausmus to answer questions regarding Nathan's status as the team's closer. The veteran has retired the side in order only four times in his last 18 appearances, a far cry from the shutdown closer many Tigers fans envisioned they were getting when the team signed Nathan last offseason.
Meanwhile, the most attractive internal alternative for the closer role, Joba Chamberlain, pitched a scoreless eighth for the second consecutive day.
The Tigers are also reportedly in the market for bullpen help from the outside as the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches. In 2011, Nathan was attempting to come back from Tommy John surgery the year before, and it was then that he learned a valuable lesson -- don't worry about the trade rumors.
"I didn't concern myself then, and I'm surely not going to do it now," Nathan said.
This season, Nathan's name isn't popping up as a candidate for a trade, but any deal for relief pitching could certainly leave him on less-than-level footing.
"I'm way too old to worry about that stuff," Nathan said. "I've done too much in this game, too much in my career. I think it'd be unfair to myself to beat myself up over that kind of stuff after all the things I've been through in my career. That's part of the game and I know stuff's going to be talked about, but that's not for me to worry about."
Ausmus had hinted that rust could have played a role in Nathan's rough appearance on Saturday, as he went over a week without pitching. But he showed no signs of that on Sunday.
"It was crisp," Ausmus said of Nathan's effort. "He was down, got strikes in the bottom of the zone, good slider, looked like he was throwing downhill. I thought he pitched very well."
V-Mart scuffling at plate to begin second half
DETROIT -- Victor Martinez, likely the MVP of the Tigers' first half, had just two hits in 12 at-bats over his first three games after the All-Star break.
It's no coincidence that the Detroit offense has struggled to produce runs since the break. The Tigers' highest output in the first three games vs. the Indians was three runs. Martinez struck out 23 times in the first half, but he has whiffed four times in the early stages of the second half.
"His timing's a little off," manager Brad Ausmus said. "It's not quite where it was."
Prior to the break, the 35-year-old Martinez was sidelined for the better portion of two weeks with back and side soreness.
Ausmus talked to Martinez following Saturday night's loss, and the designated hitter reported feeling fine. He started at first base Sunday for the first time this month.
Joba not letting ankle soreness affect results
DETROIT -- According to Joba Chamberlain, it's rare that he wakes up and his ankle isn't bothering him.
So Sunday, a day after his right ankle prevented him from pitching the ninth inning, Chamberlain explained that feeling fine is a relative term.
"When you break it, you deal with the stiffness," Chamberlain said of his prior ankle injury that required surgery.
In the series finale against the Indians, the right-hander needed a bit more than the six pitches he needed to record a perfect eighth inning Saturday night, walking two batters but still escaping unscathed.
When Chamberlain was unable to continue Saturday, Joe Nathan was summoned to pitch the ninth. He gave up three runs and, with them, the game. Chamberlain's performance in his first season as a Tiger has been exemplary, with few exceptions. As a result, his name has come up as a possibility to replace Nathan as closer.
Manager Brad Ausmus shrugged off that suggestion Saturday, saying he isn't near the point of making a change to the back of the bullpen. And Nathan did recover Sunday by pitching a 1-2-3 ninth.
But Chamberlain was still there, keeping the Indians scoreless for the second straight game. He said he understands the tribulations that Nathan has faced as closer.
"You have to have a short-term memory," the setup man said. "You've got to turn the page. He leads all active closers in saves, so he's been through every situation. We trust him. We believe in him. He's going to be there for us."
As for Chamberlain, a former starter, he's comfortable in any role.
"I don't care when I pitch," he said.
Matt Slovin is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.