LAKELAND, Fla. -- Drew VerHagen didn’t necessarily have flashbacks as he struggled through his rough outing Wednesday, but the Tigers reliever said he felt symptoms similar to the thoracic outlet syndrome he endured a few years ago.
“I kind of had some symptoms similar to what you could call ‘dead arm,’” he said, “or you could call it similar to the TOS stuff I had a couple years ago.”
The symptoms included tightness around his neck and shoulder, a tingling sensation and a lack of strength in his arm. His velocity was down, though the radar gun at Champion Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., is believed by some players to be slow.
VerHagen yielded four runs (three earned) on two hits with three walks in two-thirds of an inning Wednesday against the Braves. He threw a wild pitch immediately after a mound visit from pitching coach Rick Anderson.
VerHagen spent Thursday undergoing tests, and he was awaiting results Friday morning as he talked at Joker Marchant Stadium. He doesn’t expect the issue to be major, but he wanted to make sure. He also plans to consult with Dr. Robert Thompson, the St. Louis-based vascular surgeon who performed VerHagen's surgery a few years ago.
Thoracic outlet syndrome is a condition caused by compression of major nerves and blood vessels around the shoulder or clavicle, and has become increasingly common among pitchers. Symptoms include numbness or tingling in the arm or hand. VerHagen was diagnosed in 2016. His Tigers teammate, Tyson Ross, underwent the same surgery later that year while with the San Diego Padres.
The procedure usually involves removing a restriction; former Tigers pitcher Jeremy Bonderman had a rib removed to correct the issue. Even so, pitchers can still feel symptoms every so often, sometimes due to inflammation or scar tissue.
“I felt it a little bit here and there,” VerHagen said. “Usually when I feel tight in that area, within a week or two I start feeling a little bit of symptoms. But that was probably the most I’ve felt it, definitely since surgery. It’s too early to really say what it was, because they’re running some tests, but I think I should be fine.”
For now, VerHagen is on anti-inflammatory medication, which he hopes will free up the nerve and allow him to pitch symptom-free again.
Tigers send down three pitchers
The Tigers made three roster moves Friday morning, none of them surprising. Left-hander Matt Hall and right-hander Sandy Baez were optioned to Triple-A Toledo. Right-hander Franklin Perez was optioned to Class A Advanced Lakeland, where the highly regarded prospect will resume his development after an injury-plagued 2018 campaign.
Perez, the Tigers’ No. 3-ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline, made four starts for Lakeland last year before being shut down with right shoulder inflammation. He made an impression in workouts this spring and pitched a solid inning against the Phillies last week, but he experienced tightness in the trapezius area near his shoulder last weekend. The team shut him down from pitching as a precaution.
Baez and Hall both pitched briefly for the Tigers last year and will serve as pitching depth in case of injuries. Baez made nine relief appearances last year for Detroit, allowing eight earned runs on 12 hits over 14 1/3 innings with nine walks and 10 strikeouts. Hall, who opened eyes with a stellar 10-start stretch for Toledo last summer, made five appearances with Detroit as a September call-up, allowing 13 earned runs on 19 hits over eight innings with three walks and five strikeouts.
The moves leave the Tigers with 52 players in Major League camp with just under three weeks to go before Opening Day.
The Tigers welcome the Braves to Joker Marchant Stadium for the second consecutive Saturday at 1:05 p.m. ET. Michael Fulmer will make his third start of the spring opposite Atlanta's Sean Newcomb.