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Struggling Nathan to remain Tigers closer

CHICAGO -- Struggling Tigers right-hander Joe Nathan is back in the closer's role after being given the day off Sunday.

Manager Brad Ausmus made it clear that regardless of Nathan's recent string of hiccups, he would have given his oft-used closer the day off. Nathan had pitched in back-to-back games prior to Sunday, giving up a pair of runs against the Red Sox on Saturday that increased his ERA to 7.04.

That move didn't work out either. Fill-in closer Joba Chamberlain served up a three-run homer to David Ortiz in the ninth inning on Sunday to blow the save and give the Red Sox a 5-4 win. In other words, The Tigers' ninth-inning problems date back to 2012 and have turned into a broken record. Ausmus wasn't pointing any fingers.

"I'm in charge of this team. It doesn't go beyond me," Ausmus said. "We have to find a way to get the areas of the team that aren't performing well to perform well. That's our job as a manager and a coaching staff. We'll continue to do that. The ninth inning has been a weakness, obviously, for us. But it's only been a third of the season. If we can get the ninth inning to return to form for the next two thirds, I think we'll be in outstanding shape.

Detroit signed Nathan to a two-year, $20 million contact before 2014 in hopes of curing the problem. Instead, after Nathan allowed just two earned runs and went 7-for-8 in save opportunities over a nine-game span from May 7-27, he's allowed at least two earned runs in four of his last five outings. Ausmus said Nathan and pitching coach Jeff Jones have worked together to correct any mechanical issues.

If that doesn't work, Ausmus will have to find other options.

"I'm not really thinking that far ahead. Right now, Joe is and has been the closer the whole year," Ausmus said. "The only times he hasn't closed have been games that I've felt it was best to give him a rest. If there's a bridge that needs to be crossed sometime down the road, I'll cross it. Right now, I'm not even considering it."

Joe Popely is an associate reporter for
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