SEATTLE -- The road back to pitching for Luke Putkonen is about to begin again. The right-handed reliever, who has been on the 15-day disabled list since April 19 while dealing with right elbow inflammation, expects to begin long tossing again on Saturday.
It'll be Putkonen's first time throwing of any sort since his Minor League rehab assignment at Triple-A Toledo was cut short 2 1/2 weeks ago. He felt renewed discomfort in his elbow after his second Mud Hens appearance May 13, when he gave up four runs on five hits in two innings against Syracuse.
Noted specialist Dr. James Andrews checked out Putkonen's elbow May 21 and said there was nothing to suggest he needed surgery. Since then, Putkonen has been on a mix of anti-inflammatory medication and strengthening.
Putkonen's absence hasn't been noted in wins and losses so much as the state of the bullpen over the past week during the struggles of the starting rotation. Phil Coke and Evan Reed have had to fill innings with Putkonen unavailable as a designated long reliever.
Joba closes out win as Nathan rests
SEATTLE -- Tigers manager Brad Ausmus did not confirm he was resting Joe Nathan Friday night after the closer had pitched the previous three games in Oakland. More to the point, Ausmus said that he will never confirm that a reliever isn't available to pitch.
"I'm not going to tell you who's available. You'll tweet it," Ausmus told reporters. "You can tweet that you don't know who's available tonight."
If, however, Nathan were to be rested for a game, Ausmus said, Joba Chamberlain would be the likely choice to close. That theoretical situation was about as close as Ausmus would get to saying Nathan would rest.
It became apparent by the top of the ninth inning Friday night, when Chamberlain was warming up with a 6-3 Tigers lead.
"Joe was off because he pitched four out of five days," Ausmus said afterwards. "It had nothing to do with [results in] Oakland whatsoever."
It also says a lot about Chamberlain's standing in the Tigers' bullpen at this point in the season. The 28-year-old right-hander, who became Detroit's primary setup man once Bruce Rondon underwent Tommy John surgery, entered Friday having tossed 4 2/3 scoreless innings with four strikeouts over his last five outings, and has allowed four earned runs over 20 1/3 innings in his last 22 outings.
"You can't replace him," Chamberlain said of Nathan. "He's just one of those guys. He's our leader. He continues to lead in so many ways."
Chamberlain's ninth inning Friday consisted of two strikeouts, a walk and a game-ending fly out to center. One of the strikeouts came against Kyle Seager, whose home run in the fourth inning accounted for most of Seattle's offense.
It was his second save as a Tiger. His first came on April 22 in a fill-in scenario, entering with two out in the ninth to record the final out in an 8-6 win over the White Sox.
"I embrace the opportunity," Chamberlain said. "I have about 380 more to go to catch up with Joe."
Actually, he's now just 347 saves behind Nathan on the all-time list.
McClendon remains close with Tigers
SEATTLE -- Lloyd McClendon obviously thought about what it would be like to manage the Tigers at some point last fall. When Jim Leyland retired, McClendon was the logical in-house candidate and arguably the favorite in the managerial field until Brad Ausmus interviewed and left an impression.
At no point while serving as the Tigers' hitting coach, however, did McClendon think about the task he faces now: How would he try to get Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez out?
He's had to think about it a lot this week with the Tigers coming to Safeco Field and McClendon facing the franchise he served for eight years as a coach on former manager Jim Leyland's staff.
"You have ideas," McClendon said. "You have things you think you can exploit to help us be successful. But the fact is, once the game starts and the players are between the lines, it's up to the players. They have to execute. There's only so much that I can do or my staff can do. It's up to the players to execute the game plan."
McClendon's transition from Tigers managerial candidate to Mariners managerial choice happened so quickly, there was barely enough time for him to ponder the situation. On the day the Tigers introduced Ausmus as their choice to succeed Leyland, McClendon was in the midst of a second interview with Seattle.
"Obviously we had great years there," McClendon said, "And I was part of a staff that helped turn that organization around. We're proud of that. I'm proud to have opportunity to work with Jim and [Gene Lamont] over there. I thought that was outstanding, the winning and then the relationships that we built. I'm certainly extremely proud and happy about that."
The greetings from Tigers players to him before the game evidenced some of those relationships. Miguel Cabrera, who went from a great hitter to an elite one and won three straight batting titles and back-to-back AL MVP awards with McClendon as his hitting coach, made a point to visit with McClendon during Mariners batting practice, as did others.
"Obviously I have a lot of friends over there, a lot of people that I consider family," McClendon said.
Two coaches on McClendon's staff in Seattle also worked in Detroit. Mike Rojas was the Tigers' bullpen coach under Leyland from 2011 through last season. Andy Van Slyke was Detroit's first base coach from 2006 through 2009. Lamont and pitching coach Jeff Jones were the lone holdovers from Leyland's staff to Ausmus' group.
Ausmus and McClendon, meanwhile, do not know each other well. Their playing career barely overlapped, but McClendon managed against then-catcher Ausmus in the National League when McClendon managed the Pirates from 2001 to 2005.
"I went outside a little early to say hi to him," Victor Martinez said. "I really enjoyed working with him the last three years. He's a great man and I knew that he was going to get an opportunity to manage somewhere."
Rajai returns to lineup
SEATTLE -- Rajai Davis said Friday his shoulder was sore, but fine after a diving catch Wednesday night left him with a bruised left shoulder and kept him out of Thursday's series finale in Oakland.
Thus, Davis was back in the Tigers' starting lineup for Friday night's series opener against the Mariners, giving Detroit its element of speed at the bottom of the batting order.
"Just sore," Davis said. "We all play with bumps and bruises."
Davis hesitated to say he could have played Thursday, but said the quick turnaround from night game to matinee would've made it tough to recover.
"I'm glad I didn't play," Davis admitted. "It's tough because of the night game to day game, so close. There's no time really to rest."
Hanrahan still progressing slowly
SEATTLE -- Joel Hanrahan continues to throw bullpen sessions and long toss in Florida as he strengthens his arm as part of his rehab program from Tommy John surgery, team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said earlier this week.
Friday marked the four-week point since Hanrahan signed a one-year contract with Detroit.
"He's just coming back," Dombrowski said during his stop at Triple-A Toledo. "He's continuing to throw bullpens and make strides along those roads."
Hanrahan has been in a strength-building pattern for the past couple weeks after experiencing some arm weakness during mound sessions earlier in the month. Dombrowski indicated they'll continue to play it cautious with Hanrahan's throwing program once he begins throwing to hitters, whenever that happens. When he does begin throwing in games, he'll likely begin in Lakeland, either with the Gulf Coast League rookie team or the Class A Florida State League squad.
"Our thought process is that's where he'll probably start down there," Dombrowski said, "Because we'll get him into a couple games once he's at that point. But we're not rushing him. We're making sure everything is [fine]. We're taking our time with him. He's feeling good, making progress, but he's not a day away from going into a game or anything. He's still got a little bit of time."