Drew VerHagen was a fourth-round pick by the Tigers in 2012. (Robin Buckson / Detroit News)
Detroit — The Tigers just threw a curveball.
Robbie Ray was widely expected to be the Tigers’ spot starter in Saturday afternoon’s opening game of a doubleheader against the Indians at Comerica Park. But plans have changed.
Instead, Drew VerHagen, a right-handed prospect, has received word he will get called up, according to two sources within the Tigers organization.
The sources requested anonymity because the Tigers have not announced Saturday’s starters.
The Tigers would not comment Wednesday.
This is a rather surprising development, giving the Indians ability to load a lineup with left-handed hitters.
Ray, a left-hander, also made the Tigers’ previous three spot starts, posting a 4.50 earned-run average. The Tigers also shuffled his pitching schedule in Toledo to put him more in line for the Saturday start in Detroit.
But Ray, 22, was roughed up Sunday, allowing eight runs on 11 hits. He’s had a few dud appearances over the last month. So perhaps the Tigers figure they’re a better bet to win with VerHagen.
Or, and this is a distinct possibility, the Tigers might want to showcase VerHagen, a fourth-round pick out of Vanderbilt in 2012, ahead of the July 31 trade deadline.
The Tigers are loaded with young, upside arms — their minor-league stockpile is considered among the best in all of baseball — and figure to move at least a couple to fill holes in the bullpen.
It will be the major-league debut for VerHagen, 23, who is 6-7 with a 3.67 ERA in 19 starts at Triple-A Toledo. In 110.2 innings, he’s allowed 117 hits and struck out only 63. He’s been very good over his last five starts, however.
VerHagen will be the seventh different pitcher to make a start for the Tigers this year; they got through all of 2013 needing only six.
The Tigers will have to make room on the 40-man roster, either by removing a player or shuffling the disabled-list designations.
Max Scherzer will start the night game of Saturday’s doubleheader.