DETROIT -- Needing a shakeup after three months and a .500 record, the Tigers went to the bullpen on Friday. The moves they made, designating Joba Chamberlain and Tom Gorzelanny for assignment while promoting rookies Jeff Ferrell and Drew VerHagen, leaves that bullpen looking a lot younger.
For now, they're going with the kids. It's a rare move for an organization that has generally leaned on veterans for late-inning outs but now has Joakim Soria and Al Alburquerque as its only relievers with a full season in the Majors. The way things were going, however, the Tigers had to change.
"There's a lot of organizations that do very well with some young arms, good arms out there," team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said Friday afternoon. "We're changing the look a little bit out there, but we think these guys can do the job."
The change follows a three-game sweep to the Pirates that included 11 runs on 24 hits over 16 1/3 innings against Detroit relievers. Gorzelanny gave up the go-ahead run in Tuesday's series opener, and Chamberlain gave up three home runs the next night. Their struggles go further back.
Chamberlain took back his old setup role when Bruce Rondon opened the season on the disabled list, and proved relatively effective early before high hit totals caught up with him. After seven holds and a 1.26 ERA for two months, he allowed nine runs, eight earned, on 14 hits over 7 2/3 innings since June 1.
The move caught Chamberlain by surprise. He'd trusted that the stuff would allow him to turn the numbers, only to have time run out.
"I walked in, started getting ready to get dressed [in uniform]. Next thing I know, we're in a meeting," said Chamberlain, who got emotional talking about his teammates. "I've never had that meeting. I've seen it happen before, so I kind of knew what to expect. You sit there, listen to it, thank them for the opportunity and you move on."
Gorzelanny gave up 17 runs on 32 hits over 24 innings, walking 15 and striking out 19. Opponents batted .390 on balls put in play. Though most of that damage came from right-handed hitters, the left-hander's .279 average and .380 on-base percentage allowed from the left side didn't help.
"I can't tell you why it didn't work," Dombrowski said. "You're just in a situation where you're looking for effectiveness. They have been effective at times, but not on a consistent basis."
Ferrell's promotion completes a rapid rise up the Tigers' organizational ladder after five years as a middling starter, including a 5.54 ERA in the rotation at Double-A Erie last season. After missing most of April with shoulder tightness, Ferrell returned to the SeaWolves in relief, picked up velocity on his fastball and found his calling, saving 12 games while allowing five runs on 21 hits over 27 innings with four walks and 35 strikeouts.
Dombrowski saw Ferrell convert a two-inning save at Akron on June 20. A week later, Ferrell was with Triple-A Toledo, earning the save in his Triple-A debut June 29. That ended up being his only appearance as a Mud Hen.
"He not only throws in the mid-90s, but he has an above-average changeup, which is a very good pitch," Dombrowski said.
VerHagen reached the big leagues as a spot starter last July before back problems ended his 2014 season. He was set to serve as an insurance starter at Toledo this spring before more back woes sidelined him for April and May. When he returned, the Tigers put him in relief -- first at Toledo for three struggling appearances, then at Erie for two runs on six hits over 6 2/3 innings.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.