The Detroit Tigers announced on Friday that they had placed the right-handed reliever on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder thoracic outlet syndrome, retroactive to May 23. Head athletic trainer Kevin Rand told the media that VerHagen’s injury is neurological rather than one dealing with the blood vessels, and the team is “hopeful” that he’ll avoid surgery.
Thoracic outlet syndrome is a compression of the nerves and/or blood vessels. It can cause shoulder and neck pain, and numbness in the fingers. While the last part sounds similar to what Shane Greene went through in 2015, it’s an entirely unrelated injury to what VerHagen is facing.
VerHagen’s route to the DL was shrouded in mystery for quite some time. He began having command issues and was optioned to Triple-A Toledo on May 22, the same day Jordan Zimmermann was sent for an MRI on a groin strain. He pitched on May 25 and then on May 26 was placed on the Mud Hens’ seven-day DL for an undisclosed injury.
General manager Al Avila acknowledged the injury wasn’t related to previous back issues, but wouldn’t get into further detail. Manager Brad Ausmus clarified on June 2 that it was a neck/shoulder related injury, and that while it wasn’t affecting his ability to pitch, it was affecting his overall health.
Because he was optioned on May 22, the Tigers don’t need to make a move in order to place him on their DL, but in doing so it confirms the injury occurred while he was with the team. That also means he’ll be able to collect his base major league salary while on the DL, which comes in at $509,500.
VerHagen was pitching well enough until things went south around April 25. He had given up runs in only one of nine games, allowing five hits total. But after that date, he allowed three home runs, 12 runs, walked four, and gave up 18 hits in 10 games played. There were two-or-more runs in three of the five outings in which he gave up runs.
It may not seem like it, but losing VerHagen as a possible long reliever is bad news for Detroit. It’s likely that his command issues stemmed from the thoracic issue, though his injury is different than the one Jeremy Bonderman dealt with in 2008 and in ‘09 — his was an issue of blood flow and VerHagen’s is a nerve problem.
Bonderman had undergone emergency surgery on June 6, 2008 to remove a blood clot in the axillary vein of his right shoulder. He missed the rest of the year and after one start in 2009, was placed on the DL for continuing pain.