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Demotion is no shock to Tigers’ VerHagen

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — Drew VerHagen wasn’t surprised by the news.

“I haven’t been good enough lately,” the right-handed Tigers reliever said after learning following Sunday’s game he was being optioned to Triple-A Toledo. “I’m not happy with (the way he’s pitched) and I am sure they aren’t happy with it either.”

VerHagen, who gave up a two-run home run into the center field shrubs to the Rays’ Tim Beckham Sunday, started strong this season, allowing just three runs (all in one game) in his first eight outings.

Since then, he has pitched 9 2/3 innings and been touched for seven runs and 11 hits, including three home runs. His ERA is over 7.00 and his WHIP is pushing 2.00.

“I think Drew has a chance to be a really good pitcher,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “He can pitch anywhere in the game and I think he could eventually be a back-end of the bullpen type reliever. But right now, he’s having trouble throwing strikes.

“He’s a little bit off in terms of commanding the ball, both with his fastball and curveball. He just needs to go down there and straighten himself out.”

Buck Farmer was recalled from Toledo.

“It’s just a matter of throwing my fastball with more conviction and early in counts to where I’m ahead of guys instead of working from behind (and) the hitter is comfortable in the box,” VerHagen said. “It’s just more coming out and being aggressive in the first couple of pitches of the at-bat.”

That’s what won him a spot on the 25-man roster coming out of spring training. He attacked with his mid-90s fastball and used his 12-to-6 curveball to keep hitters off balance or to put them away.

But throwing 2-0 fastballs to big-league hitters is problematic for any pitcher.

“It’s just coming out and attacking hitters again, from pitch one, and setting a tone,” VerHagen said. “I feel confident I’ll be right where I need to be very soon. I understand this. I need to be better.”

Archer struggles

Strange what’s happening to Rays ace Chris Archer. The Tigers chased him out of the game, scoring six runs in three innings. The first inning has been a problem for him. After the Tigers hit him with a two-spot, he’s allowed 12 first-inning runs, out of 30 total this season.

“I felt good, my stuff was really good,” Archer told reporters after the game. “I just have to do a better job. Period. Whether it's the first inning or the sixth, seventh, eighth inning — I have to just continue to work, obviously.”

He didn’t make any apologies for the 433-foot home run Miguel Cabrera hit off him into the bushes in center field.

“Miggy's one of the best hitters in the game,” he said. “That was a well-located pitch.”

Triple threat

Andrew Romine hadn't had an at-bat since May 10. In his first at-bat Sunday, he tripled off the wall in right and scored Jarrod Saltalamacchia from first. It was his first career triple. It was also the first triple hit by a Romine in the big leagues — neither his father Kevin nor brother Austin have recorded a triple in their big-league time.

On deck: Phillies

Series: Three games, Comerica Park, Detroit

First pitch: 7:10 tonight-Tuesday; 1:10 p.m. Wednesday

TV/radio: FSD/97.1

Probables: Tonight — RHP Vince Velasquez (5-1, 2.42) vs. RHP Mike Pelfrey (0-4, 5.49); Tuesday — RHP Jeremy Hellickson (4-2, 3.99) vs. RHP Justin Verlander (3-4, 4.58); Wednesday — RHP Aaron Nola (3-3, 2.85) vs. RHP Anibal Sanchez (3-5, 6.23).

Scouting report

Velasquez, Phillies: He’s coming off a five-inning, 10-strikeout effort against the Marlins and he had a 16-strikeout game against the Padres in April. He’s got wicked stuff — a riding fastball that averages 94 mph but he can get it to 96 and 97, and a legitimate 12-to-6 curveball. He also will mix in a change-up and slider, but often this season he hasn’t needed them.

Pelfrey, Tigers: Slowly but surely, he’s coming around. He’s allowed four runs total in his last two starts. He’s regained the feel for his splitter, and he’s getting his ground-ball rate back up (48 percent. He was over 50 percent last year). He is eighth in the American League with six double play balls, but his hard contact rate is still among the league leaders (37.6 percent).

Twitter: @cmccosky