By Ashley Dunkak
CBS DETROIT – Two weeks removed from going on the disabled list with a right elbow flexor strain, Detroit Tigers closer Joe Nathan appears to be on the cusp of a return to the active roster.READ MORE: Interest In Unionizing Grows Among Michigan Starbucks Workers
Nathan will make a rehab appearance with Triple-A Toledo on Wednesday. If the outing goes well, Nathan could be back in action for the Tigers on Friday.
“We’re going to continue to do the right thing,” Nathan said Tuesday. “If I’m ready, great, and hopefully be active by Friday, but again, we’re going to still continue to play it smart, and we are still in April, so hopefully things go out and go well, but if things are just a little bit off, that’s where I’ve got to be honest with them and be honest with the team, but I’m hoping for the best.”
Nathan approached Tuesday’s bullpen with the goal to determine whether he was ready for the next step, and he got the answer he wanted.
“I was able to throw a full pen yesterday and just not hold back one bit, and that was the biggest thing for me yesterday,” Nathan said. “I went into the session saying, ‘I’m going to throw this as hard as I need to to be ready for a game to test where I’m at and see if I am ready for a rehab stint and then ultimately be ready for a game.'”READ MORE: Delta Unveils New Face Recognition Screen That Displays Personalized Flight Information
Nathan, in his 15th season in the major leagues, had never experienced a strain before. When he suffered the injury, the tightness he felt in his forearm reminded him of when he suffered a torn UCL and required Tommy John surgery.
“I knew it was a different sensation, but it was still tightness in the forearm,” Nathan said. “I was definitely nervous going into the MRI to find out what the results were because if it was a tear, ultimately it could have been the end. Definitely nervous. I know I’ve had a great run, a very long career, but at the same time, this isn’t the way you want to go out. I was fortunate, very fortunate that it turned out to be a strain.”
The injury still tested Nathan’s mettle, however, and it gave him some empathy for starting pitcher Justin Verlander, who is also on the disabled list with a strain.
“One day, it literally feels like you may never pitch again, and then one day you can,” Nathan said. “I kind of understand where Ver’s at right now, the fact that there’s days you come in and you’re like, ‘God, it’s never going to go away.’ Patience is the most important thing, and it is so difficult to continue to have patience when, with strains, it can feel like it’s never getting better, and that’s kind of the way this was.
“It just felt like it was never going to get better, never going to get better, and then it did,” Nathan continued. “But even now, it’s not like it’s gone. It’s still there, but now it’s coming to the surface, like I have a bruise on my arm now. So the discoloring in my arm is kind of a good sign, that everything’s going from the core out, so now even though it’s tender to touch and there’s a bruise there, it’s promising, and I’m still able to go out and throw and let it go.”MORE NEWS: Highland Park Shooting Suspect Bobby Crimo III Charged With 7 Counts Of First-Degree Murder
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said when Nathan was placed on the disabled list that the plan would be to reinsert Nathan as the closer as soon as he returned. If Ausmus does give Nathan his job back immediately, the manager would likely aggravate many fans. Joakim Soria – who started the season as the setup man – has taken over the closer spot in Nathan’s absence, and in eight outings he has allowed only two hits and one earned run. He has an ERA of 1.35 and five saves.