By Ashley Dunkak
CBS DETROIT - The bullpen situation of the Detroit Tigers took another twist this week when the team announced veteran closer Joe Nathan would join setup man Bruce Rondon on the disabled list.
Tigers reliever Joba Chamberlain approached the news with a positive outlook Thursday, but he acknowledged the temporary loss of Nathan and Rondon is disappointing.
"It's frustrating, and you do everything you do and come in and get prepared, but it's part of the game," Chamberlain said. "You can't look at it and harp on it and worry about it. You've got to go out and prepare yourself to pitch, and when they come back, they come back, and it's two huge additions to our team when we get them back. It's nothing but a plus."
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said Joakim Soria will take over the closer role for Nathan, and Chamberlain and Ian Krol could be used in the setup role.
Fortunately for Detroit, Soria has extensive experience closing games, and Chamberlain served as the eighth-inning man for much of the 2014 season.
With 178 career saves, Soria was nonchalant Thursday when he spoke about moving into the closer role.
"I have done that before," Soria said. "My whole career I was a closer, so I know what to expect.
"The eight inning and nine inning is kind of the same," Soria added. "We go in there in the same specific situation, when the game is on the line, so it's probably the same."
Chamberlain, who is now in his ninth season, also expects a smooth transition.
"Obviously, there's no situation I haven't been in on the baseball field," Chamberlain said. "All of us are just ready to pitch at any time, whenever our name is called. Just to be able to get the ball to [the closer] is what we want to do."
Chamberlain was Detroit's most consistent reliever for much of last season, and he said he looks forward to some chances to pitch in the setup slot again.
"It's just going to be the opportunity to pitch in big situations," Chamberlain said. "I'm an adrenaline junkie as it is, so I'm excited about that opportunity."
At 23 years old, Krol has much less experience than Soria and Chamberlain, but he added a cutter to his repertoire during spring training that he believes will make a difference for him.
"I think it's helped a lot," Krol said Thursday. "It's kind of an off-speed pitch. I throw it hard, but it's got just enough cut to it that it's not like a fastball. I can throw it in any counts. I'm very comfortable with it."
Krol decided after the 2014 season to add a pitch, and he grasped the cutter quickly.
"It came to me right away," Krol said. "I kind of messed around with a couple grips, and I found the right grip, and it just kind of took off from there ... I was just thinking to myself, 'I've got a good curveball, but it's the only kind of off-speed pitch that I have," so I really, really focused on adding another pitch to my repertoire and getting better at that. It probably was right after the season, I was just kind of like, 'Man, I'm just going to work on a new pitch, I think it'd be good for me.'
"It's very effective to left-handers," Krol added, "so it's awesome."
Krol made his 2015 debut on Wednesday, pitching a scoreless inning in an 11-0 win over the Minnesota Twins. Ausmus spoke after the game about what he saw from Krol in that outing, noting the positive outcome but also mentioning that he and pitching coach Jeff Jones had a critique for the reliever.
"He was actually, he was a little on his front side, he was kind of spinning off, but he was able to get the job done," Ausmus said. "His velocity certainly was good, 94, 95, but Jonesy and I both talked to him about getting back to where he was his last few outings of spring training. I don't think it'll be a big adjustment for him. He certainly got the job done."
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