Since Jose Valverde‘s epic collapse in the 2012 postseason, the Detroit Tigers have struggled to find a reliable closer. Phil Coke and Joaquin Benoit both had their chances at the role, but it didn’t work out for either of them.
It looked as if the Tigers had solved the issue over the offseason by signing Joe Nathan. Nathan is a six-time All-Star who entered this season with 341 saves, so the job looked like it was in good hands.
Nathan entered the Tigers game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday with a three-run lead, but he allowed a leadoff home run, followed by back-to-back walks that came around to score. This resulted in Nathan’s second blown save in four chances this season.
Luckily for Nathan, he was able to get the game to extra innings, where Victor Martinez hit a solo home run to win the game for the Tigers.
Nathan was quoted earlier in the day saying that he is suffering from dead arm but wasn’t alarmed by it. As it turns out, he and the Tigers should be very concerned about it. The Tigers cannot afford to go through another season of unreliability in the closer spot. The Tigers already lost reliever Bruce Rondon for the season to Tommy John surgery and have an aging Coke who has completely fallen apart.
The Tigers need to have Nathan step up in the closer role or they will need to find a solution elsewhere. The bullpen is a complete mess for the Tigers right now, and if they don’t get things straightened out, it could be their achilles heel.