DETROIT -- Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said at the end of Spring Training that he and his staff would be testing relievers in different situations early in the season to see where each fits best. The club's first major decision appears to be on Drew VerHagen, who was designated for
DETROIT -- Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said at the end of Spring Training that he and his staff would be testing relievers in different situations early in the season to see where each fits best. The club's first major decision appears to be on Drew VerHagen, who was designated for assignment on Monday.
The move opens a roster spot for outfielder Mike Gerber, who was recalled from Triple-A Toledo. Gerber will serve as an extra left-handed bat and outfielder off the bench for the Tigers' upcoming Interleague series at Pittsburgh, where the lack of a designated hitter will put pinch-hitters and double-switches at a premium. MLB Pipeline ranks Gerber as the No. 11 prospect in Detroit's farm system.
The Tigers have several relievers with Minor League options who could have been sent down to make room. They chose VerHagen, who's out of options. When a player's contract is designated for assignment -- often abbreviated "DFA" -- that player is immediately removed from his club's 40-man roster, and 25-man roster if he was on that as well. Within seven days of the transaction (it was previously 10 days), the player must either be traded, released or placed on irrevocable outright waivers.
VerHagen, Detroit's fourth-round pick out of Vanderbilt in 2012, owns a 3-5 record and a 5.04 ERA in 73 Major League appearances over five seasons. The 27-year-old right-hander entered the season with a chance to claim a middle-relief role as a situational righty, using his hard sinker and mid-90s fastball to induce ground balls.
Though VerHagen, a former starter, struck out 11 batters over 10 innings this season, he also allowed seven runs on six hits and seven walks. He took the loss in Sunday's 8-5 defeat to the Royals, walking two of the three batters he faced to begin the seventh inning and throwing just five of his 15 pitches for strikes.
"He almost hit two guys in the head, and that's scary," Gardenhire said after the loss. "We needed him to get a couple of outs, and it didn't work out."
VerHagen's struggles in a close game mirrored his performance on Opening Day, when he allowed a walk and a hit in trying to protect a two-run lead over the Pirates in the eighth. While he has been dominant in low- and medium-leverage situations, holding opponents to a .138 average with four walks and nine strikeouts, VerHagen retired just two of seven batters he faced in high-leverage scenarios.
Gerber rejoins the Tigers after making his Major League debut as the 26th man in Friday's doubleheader split against the Royals, pinch-running for Jose Cabrera in the ninth inning of the nightcap. Though he was optioned back to Toledo after the game, the 26th man rules allow him to be recalled without the normal 10-day wait.
Gerber's return gives Gardenhire a five-man bench for the upcoming series, including DH Victor Martinez and switch-hitters Niko Goodrum and Victor Reyes.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.