The Tigers announced that they’ve recalled outfielder Mike Gerber from Triple-A Toledo and designated right-hander Drew VerHagen for assignment in order to clear a spot on the active roster. Gerber served as the 26th man in yesterday’s doubleheader but will now formally join the active roster.
VerHagen, 27, has struggled with the Tigers in each of the past few seasons, totaling 63 2/3 innings with a 6.25 ERA, 6.5 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9. The righty has a mid-90s heater that is averaging 96.1 mph this season, and he’s shown a knack for inducing grounders in his big league career as well (57.8 percent). But VerHagen was extremely homer-prone in 2017, surrendering 10 long balls in just 34 1/3 innings, and he’s out of minor league options, so the Tigers weren’t able to simply send him to the minors.
If he clears waivers, VerHagen will remain with the organization via an outright assignment, though that’s not a given. In addition to his velocity and penchant for ground-balls, he’s also notched a significant jump in his swinging-strike rate in 2017, spiking from a pedestrian 9.5 percent in 2017 to a considerably more impressive 15.4 percent in 2018. It’s a sample of merely 10 innings, of course, but VerHagen has punched out 11 hitters. The jump in strikeout rate and velocity have been complemented by VerHagen throwing his slider roughly twice as often as he did in 2017. Certainly, there are some elements to like about the 6’6″ righty, so perhaps he’ll generate interest elsewhere despite lackluster run-prevention numbers.
The 25-year-old Gerber, meanwhile, spent most of the 2017 season in Double-A, where he turned in a strong .291/.363/.477 slash with 13 homers, 22 doubles, two triples and 10 steals (in 16 attempts) before briefly reaching the Triple-A level. Detroit protected him from the Rule 5 Draft by placing him on the 40-man roster this past offseason on the heels of that quality effort. He’ll join an outfield mix that currently has JaCoby Jones in left, Leonys Martin in center, Nicholas Castellanos in right and Rule 5 pick Victor Reyes as a reserve option on the bench.
Given the team’s desire to hang onto Reyes, it’s likely that Gerber’s recall will be short-term in nature for now. But the rebuilding Tigers could potentially part ways with Martin and/or Castellanos this summer, and Jones is hardly an established fixture in left (though he is off to a very nice start in 2018). Gerber could eventually find himself with a opportunity to take on a greater role at any of the three outfield slots, as he does come with plenty of experience in center field.