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Nate Slides to the Bullpen

Our long local nightmare is over. Or should that be "Nate-mare"? Late this afternoon, Tigers manager Jim Leyland announced that Nate Robertson and his missing slider would be moving to the bullpen.

The hope is that pushing Robertson to a relief role will allow him and pitching coach Chuck Hernandez to figure out why his slider just isn't working right now. As Nate said himself, "It just spins, stays up and gets whacked." And when a pitcher doesn't have his out pitch to work off his fastball, well... we've seen what happens. Robertson has been getting bombed all season. His ERA (6.09) and hits allowed (195, just four less than all of last season) totals have become running jokes.

So who replaces Nate in the Tigers' starting rotation when his spot comes up on Tuesday? Well, Leyland hasn't gotten that far in his thought process yet. "I have no idea," he said.

Under the contract he signed during the off-season, Robertson is set to make $7 million next season, and $10 million in 2010. That 2010 total gets $1 million added to it if he pitches 200 innings next season, or 400 innings between 2009 and 2010. So it's certainly in his best interests to return to the starting rotation. But will that be in the Tigers' best interests?