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8/17/2014 7:45 P.M. ET

Johnson ready for fresh start in Detroit 'pen

DETROIT -- Jim Johnson said he isn't sure why things went awry during his four months in Oakland, but he's clearly ready for a fresh start. He's hoping the work he put in at Triple-A Toledo gives him a good shot at it in Detroit.

"We'll find out," said Johnson, who officially joined the Tigers' bullpen Sunday morning after the Tigers announced they were purchasing his contract Saturday night. "Obviously I feel comfortable where I'm at right now. I'm here to help. That's what I want to do."

His fresh start will at least begin in middle relief. Where it goes from there might depend as much on the Tigers' bullpen as a whole as it does on his own performance.

Johnson made his debut in Sunday's 8-1 loss to the Mariners, allowing three runs (one earned) on two hits with a walk and a strikeout in two-thirds of an inning.

"There's nothing etched in stone," manager Brad Ausmus said Sunday morning. "To start, I'd say he'd be somewhere in the sixth or seventh inning, and we'll see how it goes."

It's a somewhat similar role to the one Joakim Soria was filling before he suffered a left oblique strain last weekend. It's also a similar role that Joel Hanrahan might well have filled before his recovery from Tommy John surgery suffered setbacks.

Considering where Johnson stood in Oakland's bullpen by the end, it's a fairly decent rebound for him, and a return to a playoff race. Some of that goes to his previous experience, notably back-to-back 50-save seasons in Baltimore in 2012 and '13. Some, too, goes to his work in Toledo, where he showed that velocity wasn't a problem and that his command was progressing.

"It's almost like a mini-Spring Training," Johnson said. "It was good for me. I got what I needed out of it.

"Each time out, everything got better and better. Pitches got sharper. Location got better, command of pitches, both sides of plate. All that plays into it. Those are all things that I'm looking for."

While Hanrahan is expected to miss the rest of the year, Soria is reporting progress. If and when he returns, the Tigers could have a bullpen that features three relievers with extensive closing experience and another with setup work.

"He's obviously pitched in high-pressure situations," Ausmus said. "I think that experience helps, but at the same time, you have to make your pitches."

Davis steals three bases before early exit

DETROIT -- Rajai Davis tried to create a spark for the struggling Tigers' offense Sunday, and he injured himself as a result. He created a couple pieces of statistical history, but no offense.

Davis left Sunday's 8-1 loss to the Mariners after six innings with a bruised left thumb suffered on his third stolen base of the game and his 30th of the year. He became the first Tiger to steal 30 bases in a season since Alex Sanchez stole 44 in 2003, and the first Tiger to steal three bases in a game since Curtis Granderson did it against the White Sox on the final day of the 2007 season.

"I was just trying to get closer to home plate and score runs," Davis said. "That's what we need. I figure if I get closer, it'll be easier to score."

In theory, it should have worked. Yet Davis was stranded in scoring position both times, including on third base after he swiped second and third with one out in the third inning.

In doing so, Davis became just the ninth Tiger since 1914 to steal three bases in a game and not score a run. Brian Hunter was the last, swiping three bases in a 2-1 loss to the Orioles on April 4, 1998. He did the same thing in a 2-0 loss to the O's on May 21, 1997.

Gary Pettis did it twice in the 1988 season, including a four-steal game. Ron LeFlore did it on May 6, 1978. Perhaps the most surprising name on the list, however, is Hall of Famer Al Kaline.

Kaline stole just 137 bases over his 22-year career, never hitting the 20-steal mark in a season. He swiped 11 bases in 1957, but had three of them in a Sept. 23 game at Cleveland. All three times, he was stranded, and the Tigers took a 5-4 loss to the Indians.

Davis might have had a chance at a fourth steal had he stayed in the game. With a 7-0 deficit, however, he was taken out after six innings for treatment on his thumb, which he bruised sliding into second base an inning earlier.

"I just kind of went in hard at second base and hit the bag hard with the thumb," he said. "My thumb is always out."

Davis wears a protective glove on his right hand to prevent such injuries. His left hand, usually his secondary hand on slides, is left unprotected.

Nathan moves past controversy with 25th save

DETROIT -- Joe Nathan was going to have to get back on the mound and face the boos at Comerica Park eventually. David Price's home debut as a Tiger Saturday night, with a three-run lead, seemed like as good a time as any.

"At some point, he's going to have to pitch again in this ballpark," manager Brad Ausmus said. "In my mind, really, it's better to do it sooner than later."

Said Nathan: "I knew my nerves would be a little extra. When I was apologizing, I've never been a part of any type of controversy, and I will not be a part of it again."

The boos began, albeit just a few, before Nathan had made it from the bullpen to the mound. They multiplied before he began warming, then really picked up upon introduction. A leadoff single amplified them. Each time, the boos would start and eventually stop for the next at-bat, though they would resume at some point.

The runner eventually scored, but Nathan held it there, getting a game-ending double play to finish off a 4-2 win. And as the boos turned to cheers for a big win finished, Nathan kept his celebration to a point at his catcher, Alex Avila, and congratulations from his teammates. There was no chin-flick, no look into the stands.

"I held it in," Nathan said. "I definitely didn't want to have any reaction tonight, kind of just get back to trying to finish games, try to keep my emotions in check. But I knew it was important, my first time back on the mound since the incident. Just wanted to give the fans something to cheer about before they try to battle traffic with One Direction going on [next door at Ford Field]."

Dirks hits RBI single in rehab reboot

DETROIT -- Outfielder Andy Dirks restarted his rehab assignment Saturday at Triple-A Toledo, going 1-for-3 with an RBI single and two strikeouts while playing five innings in left field.

It began the third different rehab stint for Dirks, who missed just over a week with a hamstring strain in his rehab from back surgery. Dirks told John Wagner of the Toledo Blade that he has had to remain patient through the stops and starts.

"They've been patient," Dirks told The Blade about the Tigers. "They understand that a body heals in its own time. We've been heading in the right direction. It's taken a little longer than I'd like it to, but at the end of the day I have to be healthy to perform."

If Dirks can stay healthy, he'll be on track for a potential September callup.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.