By Ashley Dunkak

DETROIT – During a rehab appearance with Triple-A Toledo, Detroit Tigers closer Joe Nathan felt a pop in his arm, and the pain forced him to end his outing early.

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“He was delivering a fastball and had actually been throwing well, the bullpen went well before he went into the game, first two hitters went well, then he felt it,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said Wednesday afternoon. “He thought maybe it was scar tissue, tried to throw another pitch, but it didn’t go so well, so we’re going to get him checked out.

“Generally speaking, you’re concerned about a pop,” Ausmus added, “regardless of whether it’s a pitcher or position player.”

Had the rehab appearance gone well, Nathan had hoped to come off the disabled list Friday.

“I thought he was real close,” Ausmus said. “I think he thought he was close until that one pitch.”

While the setback certainly frustrates both the team and Nathan, it also delays what could be a difficult decision for the manager. While Nathan has been on the disabled list, Joakim Soria has pitched wonderfully in his place. Nathan, on the other hand, had one of the worst seasons of his career last year, but the Tigers signed him to be the closer and are paying him an amount of money commensurate with that role. When Nathan originally went on the disabled list, Ausmus said the plan was to use Nathan as the closer again once he returned.

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Wednesday, Ausmus agreed Nathan would help the Tigers no matter where in the bullpen he pitched.

“Absolutely,” Ausmus said. “We’re a much better bullpen with Joe in it.”

While fans – miffed by Nathan’s performance last season – might disagree, Ausmus said losing Nathan for an extended period of time would be a blow.

“It hurts,” Ausmus said. “We’re a better bullpen with Joe in it. No question. So if it’s extended, it hurts, but until we know what it is, I really don’t want to speculate how long or what the impact’s going to be.”

Ausmus said he would not get into what all testing Nathan will undergo, but he said he expected the team to have some preliminary answers Wednesday night.

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