MAY 17: Ross is dealing with ulnar neuritis and won’t throw for at least another seven to 10 days, Chris McCosky of the Detroit News tweets.
MAY 15: The Tigers have already been hit hard by pitching injuries this season, and it doesn’t appear as if Jordan Zimmermann or Tyson Ross will be returning from the IL in the near future. Zimmermann was sidelined with an UCL sprain on April 26, and he is still experiencing discomfort in his elbow when throwing from flat ground, Evan Woodbery of MLive.com reports on Twitter. Given that Zimmermann hasn’t pitched in nearly three weeks and hasn’t yet begun ramping up in earnest, it seems reasonable to anticipate that he won’t be ready to return to the Tigers’ staff for at least another few weeks, assuming that all goes smoothly here on out.
As for Ross, the outlook is perhaps even more ominous. Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire told Woodbery (Twitter link) and other reporters that Ross has scheduled two separate visits with different doctors, as the right-hander tries to figure out the cause of the nerve problem in his throwing elbow. Ross has a substantial injury history that includes thoracic outlet syndrome surgery, and one of his two medical visits is with the same doctor who performed his TOS surgery back in 2016.
Between Zimmermann, Ross, and season-ending injuries to both Michael Fulmer and Matt Moore, the Tigers are trying to make do without four-fifths of their intended starting rotation. One internal option is Drew VerHagen, as Gardenhire told media (including Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press) that VerHagen will be stretched out as a starter at Triple-A. This isn’t the first time that VerHagen has been tried as a starter, as he made three starts for Detroit in 2017-18, though the large majority of VerHagen’s MLB experience (111 of 115 career games) has been as a reliever.
VerHagen is back at Triple-A Toledo after being outrighted off Detroit’s 40-man roster over the weekend, and the 28-year-old has now been outrighted in consecutive seasons. While obviously VerHagen is far from the Tigers’ ideal option for a starter, the team has been forced to leave no stone unturned as it deals with its plague of rotation injuries. It’s worth noting that VerHagen does have some decent career numbers at Triple-A, though his grounder-heavy arsenal and lack of missed bats (6.9 K/9 in his career) hasn’t translated well to the big leagues, as his 5.20 career ERA would attest.
If you’re wondering whether or not star prospect Casey Mize could be an answer to the Tigers’ pitching problems, seemingly nothing has changed from earlier this month, when Gardenhire said that such highly-touted Double-A arms as Mize, Alex Faedo, and Matt Manning weren’t going to be called up. As dire as the injury situation may be, it’s clear that the Tigers aren’t prepared to alter their developmental plans for the sake of covering some innings in a rebuilding year. At least from a long-term perspective, there’s a lot to be excited about with Tigers pitching — MLB.com’s most recent top 100 prospects list ranks Mize as the top pitching prospect in baseball, and the #6 prospect overall. Mize’s ranking will only improve throughout the year, as four of the names ahead of him (Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Fernando Tatis Jr., Eloy Jimenez, and Nick Senzel) have already reached the majors and will soon lose their prospect status.
In other Tigers prospect news, it has been announced that right-hander Franklin Perez is set to make his season debut for Detroit’s high A-ball affiliate in Lakeland. A shoulder strain has kept Perez from pitching in 2019. Originally acquired from the Astros as part of the Justin Verlander trade, the 21-year-old Perez is another well-regarded building block, ranking 71st on MLB.com’s latest prospect list.