Bullpen to receive boost with return of Soria

Bullpen to receive boost with return of Soria

DETROIT -- Two days after pitching a simulated game against his teammates, Joakim Soria will be available to pitch in a real, critical game in the division race against his old team. The Tigers will activate the reliever from the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday, manager Brad Ausmus announced before Tuesday's game vs. the Royals.

Soria's return brings a major boost to a Tigers bullpen that has struggled to cover the late innings -- not just in his absence for the past month, but for nearly the entire season.

Soria said Tuesday his arm and his left oblique -- the latter which landed him on the DL in early August -- felt fine after he threw 27 pain-free pitches off the mound at Comerica Park on Monday afternoon. He played light catch before batting practice on Tuesday just to make sure.

The move brings Soria back for the late-season games they acquired him to pitch. The 30-year-old right-hander made just a half-dozen appearances in a Tigers uniform following his July 23 trade from Texas before straining the oblique in an Aug. 9 game at Toronto.

Soria gave up runs in each of his first three Tigers appearances, including four runs on six hits with one out July 29 against the White Sox. He had just started to settle down with back-to-back scoreless innings in August before the injury hit.

Ausmus said Monday that Soria will likely reprise his previous role, pitching anywhere from the seventh inning on.

"We probably still have to be careful in terms of usage, at least initially," Ausmus said, "but I still expect him to be pitching toward the back of the bullpen."

Soria rejoins a Tigers 'pen showing signs of potential wear and tear in the setup innings. Joba Chamberlain entered Tuesday having given up seven runs on 13 hits and seven walks in 10 1/3 innings over the past month. Al Alburquerque had allowed only one run over nine innings since Aug. 12, but has walked eight and hit another.

Jim Johnson, the former Orioles and A's closer who essentially filled Soria's place when his contract was purchased in mid-August, had allowed nine runs (six earned) on five hits and nine walks over his last nine innings, striking out eight.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.