LAKELAND, Fla. -- Drew VerHagen could be in a spot to help the Tigers' rotation at some point this season. Buck Farmer could be the first pitcher called up if the Tigers need a starter. But neither of them is going to help the team come Opening Day.
VerHagen and Farmer were part of the latest round of roster cuts from Tigers camp Saturday. Both right-handers were optioned to Triple-A Toledo, along with left-hander Chad Bell, bringing the Tigers' camp roster to 50 players with two weeks left before the team heads north for the regular season.
None of the moves were of particular surprise. Once manager Brad Ausmus announced at the start of Spring Training that VerHagen and Farmer would be stretched out as starters to serve as depth option, their near futures were pegged as Mud Hens. Both had stints in Detroit last year, but as relievers.
VerHagen made 19 appearances out of the bullpen in April and early May before being diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome. He has been healthy this spring in his return from surgery, but he's pitched just 4 2/3 innings over four appearances. He gave up four runs on five hits over 1 2/3 innings Feb. 28 but has tossed three scoreless innings since -- though he walked the bases loaded Friday against the Yankees.
"VerHagen just needs to get back on the mound," Ausmus said. "He hasn't pitched in about 10 months, or whatever it was. He just needs to get the reps back. He'll go down there and start, which will allow him to get him more innings, throw more pitches, get his release point back to where he's throwing more consistent strikes. Then, he would be available to us as a starter or reliever."
Farmer has bounced between starter and reliever since his vault from Class A ball to the big leagues in 2014, including a spot start and 13 relief appearances in Detroit last year. He gave up four runs on eight hits over 9 1/3 innings this spring, all in relief, but struck out 12 batters against two walks.
"If we were in-season now and we needed a guy to come up and start, it would probably be Buck," Ausmus said.
Bell, who was acquired from Texas for catcher Bobby Wilson last May, gave up eight runs on 11 hits over 5 2/3 innings this spring, walking two and striking out three. He returns for a second season in Toledo's rotation, but could end up in a lefty relief role if he gets a promtion to Detroit this season.
"We want him to work on command a little bit with a concentration on how to get lefties out on a more consistent basis," Ausmus said. "If we use him out of the 'pen, that would be primarily what his role would be."
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.