The Tigers’ bullpen woes continue

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Joe Nathan was supposed to put an end to the late-inning problems for the Tigers. After a couple of years of dealing with Jose Valverde and moving setup men into the closer’s role, the Tigers said “screw it” this past season and paid out money for a Proven Closer. ™ Except Joe Nathan has been pretty awful and the patchwork in which Brad Ausmus has engaged hasn’t been successful either.

Last night, after Nathan pitched in two consecutive games (and wasn’t all that good in them anyway) Ausmus called on Joba Chamberlain to protect a 3-2 ninth inning lead. It went like this:

  • Brock Holt single;
  • Strikeout;
  • Dustin Pedroia walk;
  • David Ortiz three-run homer which essentially ended the game.

Chamberlain gave up another single after that and the inning could’ve gotten even more out of control if it hadn’t been for a subsequent double play. When it was all said and done, the Tigers ended last night with a bullpen ERA of 4.77 which is the worst in the American League.

Chamberlain had been pretty effective on the year until last night, but performances like that are what give managers pause about putting them in save situations. As do contracts like Nathan’s, for what it’s worth. The idea of just pitching your setup man in the ninth inning a la Joaquin Benoit just presents so many hurdles, real or contrived, just doesn’t come easily to most teams.

Or course, it’s probably worth noting that Joaquin Benoit was pretty darn good last season. Just sayin’!

 

Padres acquire Phil Hughes from Twins

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Twins right-hander Phil Hughes is headed to the Padres, according to announcements from both teams on Sunday. The Padres will also receive the 74th overall draft pick and cash considerations from the Twins, who are getting minor league catcher Janigson Villalobos in return. Minnesota is expected to absorb $7.5 million of Hughes’ $22 million contract; per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, they’ll take on his remaining salary for the 2018 season and pay an additional $5.7 million in 2019.

Hughes, 31, is far from the 16-win, sub-4.00 ERA hurler the Twins enjoyed in 2014. He hasn’t pitched more than 60 innings in any season since 2015, due in part to multiple bouts of back stiffness and shoulder surgeries. He was designated for assignment last week after missing significant time with a left oblique strain and delivering a 6.75 ERA, 3.8 BB/9 and 6.0 SO/9 through his first 12 innings of 2018.

Villalobos, meanwhile, will provide the Twins with some depth as he continues to work his way through the minor league system. The 21-year-old backstop recently completed a circuit with the Padres’ rookie-level affiliate in the Arizona League, slashing .275/.367/.388 with eight extra bases and a .755 OPS in 98 PA.

The real get for the Padres isn’t Hughes (even with much of his salary already accounted for), but the Competitive Balance B selection in next week’s amateur draft. As MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell points out, the club lost their second-round pick after inking Eric Hosmer to a massive eight-year, $144 million deal back in February.