Is Michael Fulmer A Closer?
After a few fill-ins start in April, Fulmer was an effective closer for the majority of May after converting, and he returned to the closer job in September after Gregory Soto was hurt.
Willi Castro swung so hard at the second pitch of Michael Fulmer’s live batting practice session against batters Wednesday morning that he toppled over when he missed, leaving both of them giggling as their Tigers teammates reacted.
Castro was looking for Fulmer’s fastball on an offspeed pitch. It served as a reminder of how dangerous Fulmer can be when his pitch selection is on point, as well as how difficult he can be in short, adrenaline-fueled quantities.
He quipped afterward, “It felt amazing tossing it.”
That’s not awful for his first time facing batters since the season finished. Fulmer pointed out that it’s cold back home in Oklahoma, and no one wants to go outside and swing a bat against him.
Fulmer was at camp a year ago on this date, competing for a position in Detroit’s rotation with Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal.
After a particularly bad outing, he was looking for his power fastball, failing to throw strikes, and venting his frustrations in the weight room.
The idea that he’d be able to reclaim his rhythm in his second season after Tommy John surgery was seriously doubted.
He resembled a pitcher at a fork in the road. The team’s manager, A.J. Hinch, and pitching coach, Chris Fetter, then requested that he be used in the bullpen.
It was, without a doubt, a watershed moment for both pitcher and manager.
Even if he only gets to pitch in limited doses, the bullpen was Fulmer’s way of rediscovering some of the electrifying stuff that garnered him AL Rookie of the Year honors in 2016.
Getting Fulmer to buy into a bullpen move for the team’s sake was one of several important moves Hinch took early on in establishing the culture he desired with the help of the veterans he inherited.
“The number one thing you need in order to maximize any move is buy-in from the players,” Hinch said. “Buy-in enables you to improve more quickly. When the older guys do it, the younger guys will follow.”
Fulmer might be forgiven for putting his name in as a starting possibility as the Tigers begin Spring Training in need of rotation depth. Instead, he’s devoted himself to the bullpen.
Fulmer stated, “We talked about it at the close of last year.” “I believe with the way things went last year, I just felt more and more comfortable out of the bullpen to the point where I really enjoyed it.”