By Ashley Dunkak
CBS DETROIT - The Detroit Tigers will place closer Joe Nathan on the 15-day disabled list with a right elbow flexor strain, general manager Dave Dombrowski announced after Wednesday's game.
"It bothered him more a little bit the end of last week, a little bit, and he had it bothering him a little bit on Monday, the day he pitched - not major, but it really hasn't cleared up for him," Dombrowski said, "and so today it was still bothering him, so he got checked, and there's a little bit of a strain in there."
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said Nathan felt okay before he pitched Monday, but when Nathan threw Wednesday, Ausmus could tell the elbow was troubling the closer.
"He came in today, played catch, and from what he said and from how his face looked you could tell it was bothering him quite a bit," Ausmus said. "Joe, in the time I've known him, he's never said, 'I can't throw,' and today he kind of in not so many words said, 'I probably shouldn't throw today,' which tells me it was really bothering him, so that's why we got the MRI."
In the absence of Nathan, Joakim Soria will serve as closer, Ausmus said. The plan is that Nathan will return to the closer role when he gets healthy.
Ausmus did not know whom he would use as setup man, the role Soria will be temporarily vacating.
"I think we've got a couple guys that we could use down there," Ausmus said. "It might depend on who's hitting. Certainly Joba [Chamberlain] did it for us last year and he would be a guy we would consider using. I think if there's lefties coming up we could use a guy like [Ian] Krol. It might vary day to day."
Only two games into the season, Nathan is the second high-profile reliever the Tigers have placed on the disabled list. Bruce Rondon is also out of commission. Ausmus acknowledged the situation is not ideal but said the team hopes to get Nathan and Rondon back relatively soon.
"We were concerned with Rondon about getting to the eighth and ninth, and now we lose Joe, now we've got Soria to fill in the ninth but now we've got to get through the eighth," Ausmus said. "Joba did it last year, for the vast majority of the year did a real good job for us. I guess it's a little bit of a concern, but we don't expect Joe to be out of action for more than a couple weeks, and really we're hopeful that Rondon can come back in short order as well."
With Nathan headed to the disabled list, the Tigers are calling up Blaine Hardy from Triple-A Toledo.
"We just left spring training, so we're in a position where Brad and the staff and everybody's got a real pulse of all of our guys," Dombrowski said. "Hardy was real close to making our club as it was. We're in a situation where going into Cleveland, you've got a lot of left-handed hitters. Brad felt he'd like to have a left-hander, another left-hander in the bullpen if we had that flexibility, and Hardy pitched well for us last year."
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