Amidst talk of limits, Michael Fulmer just keeps pitching

The debate continues of whether and how the Tigers should watch Fulmer’s innings. Fulmer’s response is to keep delivering innings worth watching.

“He’s making it increasingly difficult to keep his innings down,” manager Brad Ausmus deadpanned.

Games like Sunday are why Ausmus and Tigers management are having to think outside of innings on limits with regards to Fulmer’s workload. This is the same organization where Rick Porcello pitched eight innings only once as a rookie and didn’t get a shot at a complete game until 2014, his final season in Detroit. But when Michael Fulmer finished his eighth inning Sunday, Ausmus said, he had no thoughts of taking him out.

Why would he? Fulmer had gone eight innings in just 94 pitches. He not only had a good chance at his first professional shutout, he had an outside chance at a Maddux, a shutout in less than 100 pitches.

“After I came out of the eighth, I just did my normal thing and sat down,” Fulmer said, “and Brad never came and got me. So the mindset was just [on] staying focused and go back out for the ninth and try to get a win for the team.”

Said Ausmus: “I didn’t even think twice about it.”

He was not thinking about it, by all indications, when Nomar Mazara singled to lead off the inning on Fulmer’s 99th pitch.

“I looked back at the dugout to see if Brad was coming out, and he wasn’t,” Fulmer admitted. “So I was like, ‘All right, let’s get a ground-ball double play here. That’ll save a few pitches.’ Wasn’t able to do that. I didn’t make things any easier by falling behind I think on every guy that inning. But the defense played great.”

Tyler Collins caught Shin-Soo Choo’s line drive for the second out, but the key was Ian Desmond, who had a 3-0 count and the chance to push Fulmer further when Fulmer got back into the at-bat and put him away with a slider to chase.

“I get to 3-0 and I’m [thinking], ‘Well, he’s probably not swinging,'” Fulmer said. “I just threw strike one. He took the two-seam down and the umpire called it a strike. From there, he wasn’t going to go down looking.”

Ausmus wasn’t taking him after the single, but he said later he had in mind that Carlos Beltran — the fourth batter of the inning — was going to be his last. At 110 pitches, Fulmer needed two more to retire him.

That put Fulmer at 120 innings in Detroit this season. Add in his Triple-A Toledo work before the call-up, and he’s at 135 1/3 innings combined this season. He threw 124 2/3 innings last year.

Now comes the aftermath. Fulmer’s next turn in the rotation comes Friday against the Red Sox, whose team president, Dave Dombrowski, pulled off the trade to bring Fulmer to Detroit. After that, he’ll likely get a longer rest.

“We have an off-day coming up [next] Monday, and there’s a pretty good chance we’ll do something in terms of moving where he pitches,” Ausmus said. “[Pitching coach] Rich Dubee will sit down and look at it and map it out.

“We’re going to have to do something, push him back, skip him, something, at some point. If he keeps pitching like this, we might have to do it more than once, because we’d like to have him around all the way through.”

The trick with that, the Tigers say, is that the innings are coming so easily for him. He’s averaging 15.14 pitches per inning, the 13th-lowest average among qualified Major League starters. He averaged 12.4 pitches per inning Sunday.

“Like I said before, we don’t really have a hard cap,” Ausmus said. “I think his body type could handle a little bit more of an increase than a normal guy could. And again, I know he threw 112 pitches, but really, he doesn’t have very stressful innings very often. He’s usually pretty low pitch count. There’s something to be said for that.”

Said Fulmer: “All I know is I feel good right now. I can’t control the future. I don’t know how I’m going to feel in the future. I could feel this good at 200 innings, who knows, but all I can do is control the present and keep pitching every fifth day and hopefully staying healthy every fifth game.”

14 Comments

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this situation is a 2nd-guesser’s delight, particularly if they push Fulmer back or skip him a couple of times down the stretch and then miss the playoffs by a slim margin. When Fulmer starts, they almost always win (16 of 19 so far). It sure seems that rationing his starts going forward would reduce the team’s chances of making the playoffs.

still puzzled by the decision to send Fulmer out for the 9th in a 7-0 game.

Low pitch count, low-stress innings, family and friends in attendance, according to Ausmus.

Brad appears to be the type of manager that believes in personal goals for a player (unlike Leyland). Fulmer now has a complete shut out game under his belt and is continuing to show baseball he is a must see pitcher. I always thought Porcello was held back too much.

Nice topic to discuss unlike discussions during the games. Why did Fulmer pitch the 9th? El T, should we rest his arm? Porcello has 16 wins with a 3.30 era. The bullpen has blown games and the hitters are not so clutch. KC and Boston at home. When do we turn the corner? Go Tigers! –Dave

I thought it was ok for Fulmer to pitch the 9th. No stress on him throughout the game. His pitch count was extremely low until the last two innings. With the low count I was thinking he intentionally used more “throw away” pitches to set up hitters in the last 2 innings. His pitch count elevated as a result but he never looked stressed. Brad can still skip him once in a while especially when/if Zim and Pelf get back. He deserved the chance for a complete game shut out. How often does that opportunity present itself? On a side note, I liked the consistency of the umpire’s strike zone. It was a little squeezed but fair, and did not lengthen at bats. The game moved right along.

I should add, with Fulmer pitching, games always do move right along. Refreshing isn’t it?

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Fulmer is 10-3 and is now the qualified leader in ERA for the AL at 2.25. He is third in WHIP at 1.02. In 1981, Fernando Valenzuela became the only pitcher in MLB to win both the ROY and Cy Young awards. Fulmer has a shot to do the same, in my opinion.

ROY for sure but the short season and the rookie status will work against him as far as the CY goes.
Pelfrey and Zimmermann still two weeks away at least.

I don’t see him as a favorite for Cy by any stretch, but I do think he has a shot if he maintains his ERA and gets 5 more wins. At minimum, Fulmer should get some votes if he does that.

Send UPTON down to Lakeland to learn to HIT!
The GM should be fired!
What is Wally Joyner’s JOB?

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