7/19/2014 1:27 A.M. ET
Tigers agree with 31 of 40 Draft choices
By Jason Beck and Matt Slovin / MLB.com
DETROIT -- When Friday's 5 p.m. ET First-Year Player Draft signing deadline came and went, the Tigers had agreed to terms with 31 of their 40 selections.
First-round pick Derek Hill, a multi-tool outfielder, is the crown jewel of this year's class, and he was thusly rewarded. Hill received a $2 million signing bonus.
All but two of the Tigers' top 30 draftees signed contracts with the club. Third baseman Chase Rader, a 16th-round selection, will play for Wichita State University in the fall. University of Texas right-hander Parker French, taken in the 19th round, announced he'd return to school as well.
Thirteenth-rounder Will Allen, a catcher from Ole Miss, announced his late signing on Twitter on Thursday. He added that he'll spend the fall at Ole Miss, rehabbing his shoulder from surgery and hopes to be ready by spring.
Seven of Detroit's final 10 selections did not sign contracts. Among them was right-hander Patrick Mahomes, son of former big league pitcher Pat Mahomes.
Mahomes was never a likely candidate to sign with the Tigers. He will be focusing on football as a quarterback at Texas Tech.
High school third baseman Dave Hollins, the son of the former Major League third baseman of the same name, appears not to have signed by the deadline.
One late-round selection to sign, however, is Magglio Ordonez Jr., the son of the former Tigers outfielder. The first baseman signed Thursday and was assigned to the Tigers of the Gulf Coast League on Friday.
V-Mart returns with two hits, rare two K's
DETROIT -- Tigers manager Brad Ausmus got his veteran cleanup hitter back during Friday's 9-3 loss to the Indians, with Victor Martinez's return from his back injury. He had an odd combination of stats in his first game since July 4.
Martinez's two strikeouts marked just his third multi-strikeout game all season. Two of them have come in games started by Cleveland's Trevor Bauer, whose two strikeouts Friday gave him three of Martinez's 25 strikeouts this season.
On the flip side, Martinez's two singles marked his 31st multi-hit game of the season in 81 games played.
"You don't see him strike out a lot," Ausmus said, "but I'll take two hits from Victor every night."
He'd take it again Saturday. The question is whether Martinez will have two chances at it.
Though Martinez said he's pain-free after lingering left side and back pain sidelined him for most of July, Ausmus wants to proceed cautiously to avoid aggravating the injury. Ausmus told Martinez before the game to conserve his swings in batting practice and between at-bats as designated hitter.
After Friday's loss, Ausmus said he was still weighing how to use Martinez in Saturday's day-night doubleheader.
"He said he felt great. I talked to him after the game," Ausmus said. "He wants to play both tomorrow, but we'll see how that goes. That may be a decision in progress."
Bullpen may be signifying need for reinforcements
DETROIT -- The Tigers opened the unofficial second half of their schedule Friday with their Motown Night promotion, playing Motown classics between innings and during pitching changes. A seven-run seventh inning gave them a lot of the latter.
After their 9-3 loss to the Indians, their bullpen struggles might well have warranted a playing of the hit Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell recorded: "You're All I Need to Get By."
For three months, manager Brad Ausmus leaned primarily on the trio of Al Alburquerque, Ian Krol and Joba Chamberlain to carry leads from his starters to closer Joe Nathan, enough so that all three entered the break on pace for career highs for appearances. They have relievers they trust. It's whether they have enough of them to get by.
Friday began a stretch of 55 games in 55 days, including three doubleheaders in seven weeks, putting their depth to the test. For the second time in as many games this week, Ausmus turned to his bullpen in the seventh inning of a game in the balance with a starter falling apart and lost.
On Sunday, it was Justin Verlander giving up four straight singles to open the seventh. On Thursday, Anibal Sanchez allowed four consecutive baserunners to open the seventh, one more than he allowed in the first six innings combined, turning a 3-0 Tigers lead into a setup for disaster. In both cases, all the runners scored, though Alburquerque came within a strike of escaping a bases-loaded, no-out jam Friday.
With less than two weeks before the non-waiver Trade Deadline, the Tigers have to decide whether they have enough bullpen relief to get through the stretch run. They've been linked to setup/closer hybrids Joakim Soria and Joaquin Benoit, the latter they know well from his previous three seasons in Detroit. However, the Rangers have reportedly been seeking two or three prospects in return, something the Tigers aren't likely to do for a reliever -- even Soria, whose contract includes a $7 million club option for next season.
Benoit has been stellar again in setup for the Padres so far this season, allowing just 22 hits over 38 2/3 innings with nine walks and 45 strikeouts. He's 16-for-16 in holds and 1-for-1 in saves. The Tigers have scouted the Padres heavily this summer.
Astros closer Chad Qualls has also been linked to the Tigers, with solid numbers over the last couple years. Detroit traded for last year's Astros closer, Jose Veras, around this point a year ago, but got mixed results down the stretch.
Before Friday's game, Ausmus said he can't worry about the trade market.
"I just concern myself with the guys who are in this clubhouse," Ausmus said.
After the game, Ausmus came to his bullpen's defense.
"Well, it was underwhelming early," Ausmus said. "The last couple games, it was underwhelming. But we had some good outings in between those. ... Overall, underwhelming at times, but I think we're moving in the right direction.
"I think the 'pen is getting better. I think the first month of the season, the 'pen underperformed. I think there should be a correction in the second half as a result."
Detroit's bullpen posted 5.37 ERAs in the opening month of the season and in June. It had allowed three runs over 27 1/3 July innings before Friday.
More telling could be the ERA by inning. Their 6.01 ERA in the ninth stems mainly from Nathan's struggles, but not entirely -- just 22 of their 56 ninth-inning runs are charged to him. Their 2.37 ERA in the eighth inning rests mainly on Chamberlain's success. More concerning could be their ERAs in the sixth (4.79) and seventh (5.18). More than half of the seventh-inning runs have come off the bullpen.
Dirks expected to resume rehab within week
DETROIT -- The muscle soreness that halted outfielder Andy Dirks' rehab assignment should not keep him out much more than a week, according to the Tigers' medical staff.
"I think sometime within a week or so, you'll probably see him be ready," head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said Friday.
Dirks, out since March following back surgery, was recalled from his rehab assignment Wednesday but kept on the 60-day disabled list, a move that raised concerns he had suffered a setback. Rand wouldn't characterize it as a setback, but said they're going to be cautious with the injury to avoid risking something worse.
"Basically, he got muscular soreness and tightness right in and around the surgical site. Not unusual," Rand said. "Basically, it's just due to the increase in activity. No matter what you do with batting practice, even simulated games can't duplicate game action as far as the intensity that guys put forth."
The decision to pull him off of rehab, Rand said, was as much a clerical decision as it was a physical one.
"If it wasn't for the fact that he's missed so much time and this is his Spring Training, like a normal rehab assignment, you'd probably say give it a couple days," Rand said. "But in his case, every day's very, very important for him, because he doesn't get that many of them, and we want to make sure we get every one we can."
By rule, position players can spend up to 20 days on a rehab assignment before teams have to decide the next step: Call up the player, keep him on the DL without rehab, or option him to the Minor Leagues.
Dirks spent eight days on rehab before being recalled. He'll have 12 days left once his rehab assignment resumes.
VerHagen joins Tigers in anticipation of debut
DETROIT -- Tall right-hander Drew VerHagen will make his Major League debut for the Tigers on Saturday in the front end of a doubleheader against Cleveland.
VerHagen is a fourth-round pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft out of Vanderbilt. The 23-year-old said Friday that the command of his offspeed pitches has been a focus so far this season with Triple-A Toledo.
"I think just, me and Al Nipper, the pitching coach down there, worked on smoothing out my delivery, making everything on time in my delivery and also worked a lot on both my offspeed pitches, changeup and curveball, and improving the command of those helped a lot," VerHagen said.
VerHagen, ranked by MLB.com as the Tigers' No. 12 prospect, is 6-7 with a 3.67 ERA in 19 starts this year with the Mud Hens. The sinkerballer has allowed only five homers -- compared to eight hit batsmen -- this season.
"I guess keeping the ball in the yard is a big part of the game, so I definitely try to keep the ball in the zone and try to get ground balls, so I guess that just ends up working to my advantage," he said.
VerHagen's phone was out of battery when he got the call, but he had a voicemail waiting for him from Toledo manager Larry Parrish when he charged it up.
"I was just obviously thrilled at the opportunity, just really happy and went straight in and told my dad," VerHagen said. "It's a little emotional, and I was really excited. It was a good moment."
Joel Hanrahan continues to throw off a mound at the Tigers' Spring Training complex in Lakeland, Fla., but is not scheduled to face hitters yet.
"He's thrown bullpens the last two weeks. They've gotten incrementally a little bit better, but not to where [he can take the next step]," Rand said Friday.
Hanrahan threw 40 pitches off the mound Friday, Rand said.
While neither the Tigers nor Hanrahan put a timetable on his return from Tommy John surgery when he signed at the beginning of May, his rehab has by all accounts gone slower than expected. Part of the extra time has been spent rebuilding arm strength.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. Matt Slovin is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.