After a rough couple of days for the Tigers’ bullpen, the roster is getting a slight makeover. On the plus side, Mike Gerber will return to the major leagues after getting his first taste during last Friday’s doubleheader against the Kansas City Royals. He’ll join the big club in time to travel to Pittsburgh for the club’s three-game series with the Pirates starting on Tuesday. The move gives the Tigers an extra bench option for games played under National League rules. However, the bigger news comes in the form of reliever Drew VerHagen being designated for assignment.
The Tigers have consistently shown faith in VerHagen over the years as he’s battled injury and ineffectiveness at the major league level. However continued command issues and low strikeout totals made him a longshot even as a reliever this season. The club stuck with their 2012 fourth round pick, preferring to make roster cuts elsewhere, and a solid spring training featuring a revamped slider offered some hope than the 27-year-old right-hander might finally put things together in a relief role. Unfortunately for VerHagen, the Tigers have seen enough after 10 innings of work this season.
The move is an interesting one, as VerHagen is out of options and has to be designated for assignment. He hasn’t been particularly good in April, but there have been a few encouraging signs. VerHagen’s strikeout rate has skyrocketed from his previous levels to 26.2 percent of batters in 2018. His previous high was 17.2 percent in 2017. However, a corresponding spike in walks has eroded the value of those punchouts. Still, he holds a fairly positive 1.73 RE24, and hasn’t allowed a single home run, leaving his peripheral numbers looking stronger than the eye test would indicate. Five earned runs allowed in his last three outings finally convinced the Tigers’ brass that it just isn’t working out.
Due to his age, injury history, and lack of success in the major leagues, it’s unlikely that another team is going to be interested enough to pick VerHagen up off waivers. The Tigers will wait a week to see if anyone is interested, but it’s possible that if VerHagen is left in the remainder bin, the Tigers will simply keep him and outright him to the minor leagues. There isn’t a whole lot of intrigue left, but VerHagen’s strikeout gains may make him worth keeping around a little longer since he’ll no longer be blocking anyone from the 40-man roster.
As for Mike Gerber, hopefully he gets his first chance to show what he can do this week.