What appeared to be a quick, one-day cameo last week for Detroit Tigers rookie Mike Gerber has morphed into a new opportunity as the Tigers recalled him Monday from Triple A Toledo while designating for assignment reliever Drew VerHagen.
Gerber will rejoin the Tigers for Monday’s team flight to Pittsburgh, which figures in his call-up. The Tigers cannot use the designated hitter at National League ballparks and could benefit from his bench role as pitchers prepare to bat, and to be replaced by pinch-hitters.
VerHagen’s departure makes room for Gerber on the Tigers’ 40-man roster. It is a rash demotion for a right-handed pitcher who was out of minor-league options and who has pitched for the Tigers each year since 2014, two years after the Tigers made him a fourth-round draft pick out of Vanderbilt.
Gerber, 25, is a left-handed hitter who can play all three outfield spots. He was brought aboard for his big-league baptism in Friday’s doubleheader against the Royals, during which he was a pinch-runner for Miguel Cabrera.
VerHagen’s days with the big-league team grew thin Sunday when he was alarmingly wild and walked two batters during a stint in the Tigers’ 8-5 loss to the Royals at Comerica Park.
In nine games this season, he had a 6.30 ERA, even with 11 strikeouts in 10 innings. More telling, he has walked seven batters.
“That was kind of scary,” Gardenhire said of Sunday’s blow-up. “That’s misfiring. We’re trying to find spots where we can use him because he hasn’t pitched in a few days. We needed him to get a couple of outs and he lost it.”
“Other people have to get some outs for us some time or another. It just didn’t work out today.”
Nick Castellanos and Shane Greene were seen after Sunday’s game huddling with VerHagen in what appeared to be a bid to boost VerHagen’ spirits.
The Tigers have 10 days to decide VerHagen’s fate. He can be traded, or he can be claimed on waivers. If he clears waivers, he can be outrighted to the minor leagues.
Gerber has had a chilly April at Toledo, batting .196, but has hit two home runs.