Arlington, Texas — Michael Fulmer normally doesn’t throw the day after a start. But then again, Fulmer hasn’t had a stretch quite like he’s had over his last four starts, either.
“I just have to figure it out,” he said.
Fulmer was hit for five runs and seven hits in five innings Monday. It was his fourth straight loss. And in that span, he’s allowed 19 runs in 21⅔ innings. As catcher James McCann said Monday night, “He wasn’t Michael Fulmer-esque.”
So there was Fulmer, after throwing 75 pitches Monday, throwing on flat ground in the left field to bullpen catcher Sam Palace some four hours before the game Tuesday. Pitching coach Rich Dubee was monitoring the session.
“I think I figured a little bit of it out,” Fulmer said.
After studying the video from Monday, Fulmer noticed he’d developed a hitch in his delivery, caused by the way he was separating his hands before making the pitch. The way he demonstrated it, normally, when he lifts his front leg and separates his hands, his thumb is pointing downward and the seams of the ball are facing the ground.
In that way, his wrist is already cocked and ready to deliver the pitch.
That wasn’t happening on Monday.
“The ball was facing me as opposed to having my thumbs pointed down,” Fulmer explained. “It was like a hitch in my delivery.”
He needed an extra step in his delivery, the hitch, in order to cock his wrist before his release. When he’s right, the wrist is cocked immediately when he separates his hands.
“It was almost like putting an extra syllable in a word,” he said. “It used to be, one-two-three-go. Now it was one-two-three-four-go. So today I was working harder to get my thumb down. I don’t usually throw a flat-ground after a start, but I wanted to work on that before my bullpen (Wednesday).
“I need to make sure I get the ball out of my glove with the thumb down with my wrist already cocked.”
Fulmer said he didn’t know if that was the only mechanical adjustment he’d have to make. He certainly didn’t think that alone would be the cure. He knows he was rushing his delivery on Monday. He knows he struggled to stay on his back leg and was too jumpy to the plate.
“I was messing around with a few things out there,” he said. “I was trying to land my front foot first before my body started going forward. I tried to go nice and easy, preset on my back leg, just bring my leg up and then down and then throw over the top.
“Really just going back to basics right now. I think this has been happening for a while. I need to get back to where I am trusting my stuff and just throwing nice and easy and out front — where my two-seamer is sinking again as opposed to running, and everything is down in the zone.”
The best news regarding Fulmer, though, was that he felt no tingling or numbness in his fingers. There was no flare-up with the ulnar nerve in his right arm.
With an off-day on Thursday, manager Brad Ausmus took the opportunity to refashion the rotation.
Left-hander Matthew Boyd will have his start pushed back. He’s given up nine runs in his last two starts covering 9⅔ innings. He would’ve started Saturday against the Dodgers. Instead, his next start will be next Tuesday against the Yankees — an eight-day break.
Pushing Boyd back will enable the Tigers to keep Fulmer and Justin Verlander on regular rest.
Jordan Zimmermann will start Friday in the first game against the Dodgers. Fulmer will go Saturday and Verlander Sunday.
“It would have been an eight-day break for Verlander if we kept everything the same,” Ausmus said. “Ver likes to be on regular rest.
Sometimes we have to force him to take an extra day.”
Ausmus said Boyd would be available to work out of the bullpen this weekend.
Miguel Cabrera, who missed the last two games with muscle soreness in the right side of his back, returned to the lineup Tuesday.
He went through physical therapy and hit in the cage before being cleared to play.
“I feel better today,” he said. “I’m going to try to play.”
He said the pain in his right lower back had bothered him for five days before he pulled himself out of the lineup. The left lower back and hip has been a source of pain for him all season.
He was asked if he considered shutting it down for the rest of the season, just to heal fully.
“No,” he said. “I’m not going to do anything like that.”
Around the horn
The Tigers went into the game Tuesday a season-high 12 games under .500.
Tigers at Rangers
First pitch: 8:05 p.m., Wednesday
TV/radio: FSD, 97.1
LHP Cole Hamels (7-1, 3.31), Rangers: This will be his ninth start since coming back from an oblique injury, and he’s been stingy. The Rangers are 6-2 in his last eight starts and opponents are hitting just .188 against him. The velocity on his four-seam and two-seam fastballs have clicked up from 90-91 mph in April to 92-93 now.
RHP Anibal Sanchez (3-3, 6.69), Tigers: When he was pitching well in July, he was getting a 10-mph spread between his fastballs and off-speed pitches. Recently, in his last two starts, that differential is down to 8 mph. The result of that and poor location, both his fastballs and his slider and curve have been getting hit. He’s given up seven home runs in his last two starts.