By MIKE MONTFORT —
Two former starters on Navarro College’s 2011 NJCAA Championship Team — righthanders Austin Pruitt of the Tampa Rays and Drew VerHagen of the Detroit Tigers — earned major league call-ups in July and starts for their respective clubs last week.
For both pitchers this week, first starts at home are in the works.
Pruitt (6-2, 1 save, 1 hold, 5.65) opposes the Boston Red Sox and lefthanded ace Chris Sale in a 6:10 pm Tuesday matchup at Tropicana Field, while VerHagen (0-1, 5.00) is penciled into the Tiger rotation for a 12:10 pm Thursday interleague start at Comerica Park against righthander Gerrit Cole and the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Pruitt, the Rays’ ninth-round pick of 2013 who made their 2017 Opening Day roster, had been summoned from Triple-A Durham on July 28 to replace injured rotation member Jake Odorizzi, who was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a mild back strain. Against the Red Sox on Tuesday, Pruitt will be making his fourth career MLB start and his first at Tampa.
VerHagen, the Tigers’ fourth-round pick of 2012, had been recalled from Triple-A Toledo on July 24 and made two relief appearances. The 6-foot-6 righthander from Royse City got an opportunity to make an emergency start for 2016 American League Rookie of the Year, all-star Michael Fulmer, who went to the disabled list August 1 with right elbow ulnar neuritis. Against Pittsburgh, VerHagen will be making only his third MLB start.
Pruitt will be coming off an enjoyable homecoming performance and win at Houston over the AL-West-leading Astros in his 3rd spot start of the year. The former University of Houston righthander from The Woodlands pitched a personal-season-long, 6.1 innings of shutout ball at Minute Maid Park. Pruitt, making his third career start on the road, threw 85 pitches, yielded five hits, walked one and struck out three.
The 2011 NJCAA ERA champion (0.81) has thrown 43 innings in 20 MLB games this season, with only three appearances of 3 innings or longer. Before his triumph at Houston, he worked 5 innings against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium.
VerHagen, a Royse City product who played at Vanderbilt, received his first start of 2017 and the second of his career Thursday when he faced the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards. He threw 74 pitches (46 for strikes) during five innings of work, gave up four hits and two bases-on-balls, and surrendered only two earned runs in a no-decision.
VerHagen, a 2012 fourth-round pick of the Tigers, had been recalled from Triple-A Toledo of the International League on July 24 and made two relief appearances before being summoned to replace injured Michael Fulmer (elbow) in the rotation.
VerHagen transferred to Navarro from the University of Oklahoma in 2010, and used his 2011 success here to land at Vanderbilt. He’s pitched in 43 MLB games in a variety of roles over parts of the past four seasons.