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Tigers vs. White Sox Preview: Is this the last of Drew VerHagen in Detroit?

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Spencer Turnbull’s return and VerHagen’s own poor performance don’t bode well for the righthander.

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Detroit Tigers v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images

The writing is on the wall for this to be Drew VerHagen’s last start in a Tigers uniform. The 28-year-old righthander has struggled in previous chances — he has given up 11 runs on 16 hits in 8 23 innings in two starts this year, and has a career 9.35 ERA as a starter — and he has already been designated for assignment once this year. With several prospects coming up the pipeline, including the near-ready Kyle Funkhouser and Beau Burrows, VerHagen’s days in Detroit were always numbered.

This is especially true when considering the way the Tigers have set their rotation following Spencer Turnbull’s return from injury. They could have called up a starter for Tuesday’s doubleheader, and have not been shy about throwing Ryan Carpenter into such situations this season. Instead, they opted to use VerHagen on Tuesday, even when needing a starter to fill Jordan Zimmermann’s spot in the rotation on Friday.

(They may still yet use Carpenter on Friday, but Kyle Funkhouser will be on full rest at that point. You know, just to get your hopes up.)

It’s difficult to say whether this will be VerHagen’s final appearance as a Tiger, or even his final start. He will be able to opt for free agency if designated for assignment again, but has shown flashes of being a competent reliever through his six big league seasons. Even as recently as last year, VerHagen looked like someone who could be a competent piece out of the ‘pen. The Tigers have also brought him and others (Carpenter once again gets a mention here) back multiple times even when their performance doesn’t warrant many more looks.

Chicago White Sox (49-61) at Detroit Tigers (32-76)

Time/Place: 1:10 p.m., 7:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: South Side Sox
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, ESPN+, fuboTV, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Game 1 Pitching Matchup: RHP Dylan Cease (1-4, 6.43 ERA) vs. LHP Daniel Norris (3-8, 4.67 ERA)

Game 110 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Cease 28.0 21.8 11.3 5.21 0.2
Norris 111.2 19.9 6.1 4.44 1.7

Dylan Cease hasn’t been all that impressive through his first five major league starts. He has allowed at least three runs in all five outings, and has surrendered four earned runs or more in each of his past four starts. The White Sox have only won one of those games, a 7-5 win over the Tigers in Cease’s big league debut, naturally. They haven’t given him much help, though, with just four total runs scored across his last four outings.

It’s far too early to write Cease off, of course. The 23-year-old has worked just 28 big league innings so far, and has struck out 27 hitters along the way. His command is still spotty — something that plagued him in the minors too — but he still has all the natural talent in the world. This includes a double-plus fastball that has averaged 96 miles per hour and reached triple digits at the major league level. His changeup has been the swing-and-miss pitch so far, but the slider and curveball have drawn better reviews from scouts.

As a result, Cease is a bad matchup for the Tigers offense (yes, even worse than most). He fanned six Tigers in five innings back in July, and generated 13 swinging strikes on 101 pitches. The Tigers have been baseball’s worst offense against right-handed pitching, and have the third-lowest walk rate. Even though they took four walks against Cease last time out, the overall numbers don’t bode well against the hard-throwing righty.

Game 2 Pitching Matchup: LHP Hector Santiago (1-0, 6.75 ERA) vs. RHP Drew VerHagen (1-2, 11.66 ERA)

Game 111 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Santiago 8.0 15.8 13.2 5.21 0.0
VerHagen 14.2 15.5 17.9 7.37 -0.3

Yes, Hector Santiago is still pitching. After throwing 102 innings for the White Sox last year (nope, don’t remember that at all), Santiago has spent most of 2019 at the Triple-A level. He signed with the New York Mets in January, and spent a month with their Triple-A affiliate before being called up to throw eight innings out of the Mets’ bullpen in May and June. This includes two appearances against the Tigers back (nope, don’t remember those either), both of which were scoreless. Santiago gave up runs in five of his next six outings, however, and was released.

The White Sox picked up their old friend in June and stuck him in their Triple-A rotation, where things have not gone too well. Santiago has allowed a 5.84 ERA in 37 innings, surrendering a .358 on-base percentage and .938 OPS along the way. His strikeout and walk numbers are strong, but he, like others, has struggled with the baseball; Santiago allowed nine home runs in those seven starts, a rate of 2.19 per nine innings.

In terms of raw stuff, Santiago’s fastball is down to 91-92 miles per hour. He still uses a changeup as his main secondary offering, and mixes in the occasional slider and curveball. His screwball is no more, unfortunately — he hasn’t really thrown one in several years now, per Brooks Baseball — though with a career usage rate of just 1.51 percent, it was never much of a thing at any point.

Key matchup: The Tigers vs. scoring runs

Do that, Tigers.

Prediction

The Tigers split the doubleheader and snap their losing streak.