Detroit — Some welcome-back gift, this task awaiting Drew VerHagen as he makes his Tigers return Monday.
A right-handed pitcher who has been through a career grinder the past six weeks will start the 1:10 p.m. game when the Tigers and the offensively merciless Yankees play the first half of their day-night doubleheader at Comerica Park.
The teams were supposed to have wrapped up the Detroit installment of their 2018 schedule during New York's visit in April. But miserable weather wiped out two of their three Comerica matches, which led to the Monday make-ups.
VerHagen looked as if he might be finished in Detroit after he was designated for assignment in April. But he cleared waivers, was outrighted to Triple-A Toledo, and during the past month has all but taken a flame-thrower to batters.
VerHagen has struck out 41 hitters in 27⅓ innings while walking eight. He has allowed but 13 hits.
The Tigers are short on pitchers, rotation arms and relievers, as Jordan Zimmermann and Francisco Liriano deal with the disabled list. Tigers relievers have been at a premium, as well, either because of ailments, or because of exhaustion.
Another pitcher will be added Monday: Sandy Baez, a right-hander who was starting at Double-A Erie.
Baez, 24, will be tacked on as a 26th player permitted when teams play doubleheaders.
He had a 3.90 ERA in 10 starts at Erie, with a 1.28 WHIP and .255 opposing batting average. Baez has been strong in his last three starts, including last Tuesday's two-hitter against Binghamton in which he struck out seven and walked one in seven innings.
The Tigers lost catcher James McCann in the fifth inning of Sunday's 8-4 tumble to the Jays at Comerica Park when he had a "left intercostal spasm," which probably sounded worse than it later appeared to be, at least in McCann's estimation.
In lay terms, it was a nasty tightness and pain in his back that flared up during a rundown between first and second base in which Jays catcher Russell Martin was put away.
"The doctors kind of realigned him — there was a rib out of whack," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said.
McCann was brushing it all aside afterward, insisting he would be ready to play Monday. He is tentatively planned to start the 7:10 p.m. game.
"I got some work (therapy) on it, got it stretched out, and it's fine," McCann said. "It just wasn't anything they wanted to risk with a doubleheader (Monday)."