Joe Nathan had another bad day at work this afternoon, blowing his seventh save of the season when he allowed a run in the ninth inning in an eventual 10-inning, 3-2 loss to the Blue Jays. Nathan now has a a 5.36 ERA, even after going on a run of seven consecutive appearances without allowing a run.
James Schmehl of MLive.com reports that Tigers manager Brad Ausmus is sticking with Nathan as the club’s closer. Joakim Soria would have been next in line for the job, but he left with an injury during today’s game and will be reevaluated tomorrow.
The Tigers, now 63-51, have seen their first-place lead in the AL Central slip from five games last Sunday to two games after today’s loss, and it can shrink further to 1.5 games if the Royals defeat starter Tim Hudson and the Giants tonight. The Tigers’ bullpen has proven to be their undoing frequently throughout the season and may wind up being the culprit if they lose their seat atop the division.
Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic reports that the Pirates have decided to convert outfielder JB Shuck into a two-way player. Recent comments relayed from the club’s director of player development, Larry Broadway, indicated that the outfielder would be coached in developing his pitching skills while working at Triple-A Indianapolis.
Per Broadway, the change would be enacted to help the veteran outfielder develop some much-needed versatility in the majors, where he’s only ever been limited to outfield and DH responsibilities. Well, except for the two games in which he pitched an inning of relief: once, against the Nationals in a blowout 11-4 loss in 2016, then in a similarly painful loss to the Diamondbacks this past April. During the latter outing, he finished the game with a 13-pitch ninth inning after allowing just one hit and one walk.
Add to that one minor-league outing in 2012, and the 31-year-old Shuck has pitched just three times over the course of his 12-season career in pro ball. While he has three years of experience on the mound from his college days, he’ll need quite a bit of preparation to handle the kind of workload expected from a two-way outfielder/reliever: 20+ innings pitched over a season and 20+ games played as a designated hitter or position player.
Still, his lack of experience doesn’t seem to faze Broadway, at least not this early in the process. There’s no word yet on how soon Shuck would be expected to debut his new skillset on a major-league level.