Joe Nathan won’t pitch for the Detroit Tigers this year after tests revealed a torn elbow ligament that will require Major League Baseball’s active saves leader to undergo season-ending surgery.
Nathan, 40, has a torn ulnar collateral ligament and a flexor pronator tear in his right arm, the Tigers said in a statement. The injuries could end Nathan’s major-league career, as Tommy John surgery typically requires at least a full year of rehabilitation for pitchers. He entered this season as the fifth-oldest player in the majors.
Nathan appeared in only one major-league game this season before going on the disabled list with an elbow strain, striking out the only batter he faced for his 377th career save. He further injured his elbow Wednesday during a rehab appearance with the Tigers’ Triple-A minor-league affiliate.
Nathan struggled at times as the Tigers’ closer in 2014, when he logged 35 saves yet had a 4.81 earned run average. He had 340 saves with a 2.14 ERA from 2004 through 2013 for the Minnesota Twins and Texas Rangers. Nathan ranks seventh all-time in career saves.
Joakim Soria has replaced Nathan in the closer’s role for the Tigers, who are tied for the American League Central Division lead with an 11-4 record. Detroit is tied as the third-favorite to win this year’s World Series, with 8-1 odds at the Westgate LV SuperBook.