Jupiter, Fla. – General manager Al Avila said a couple of weeks ago it would be in right-handed pitcher Michael Fulmer’s best interest to get more seasoning in the minor leagues.
On Friday the Tigers optioned their top prospect to Triple-A Toledo.
“Ultimately the development will serve him better than forcing him to pitch at the Major League level when he probably wasn’t quite ready,” manager Brad Ausmus.
Fulmer, 23, made a strong impression, though.
“He is a young kid with potential,” Ausmus said. “He’s got good makeup, good build and he did everything we asked. I am sure he’ll be in the big leagues at some point, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it was some time this year.”
Despite a couple of rough outings, he showed the power arm and bulldog mentality the Tigers coveted when they acquired him from the Mets for Yoenis Cespedes last July.
He pitched 7.1 inning in four spring outings, allowing five runs, five walks with seven strikeouts.
Fulmer also struggled at times to corral his emotions in those four outings, getting over-amped and losing his mechanics. But the Tigers think his aggressive mentality will serve him well over the long haul.
“You kind of have to go through it,” Ausmus said. “Most guys have to go through it. I am sure at some point when he’s back up here, he’ll be amped up again and the adrenalin will be flowing. Hopefully he gets through it and he’ll be able to control it and harness it.”
Fulmer had an outside shot at making the club as the final bullpen piece, but it became clear last week when the Tigers began building his innings and pitch counts that he would likely start the year in the rotation in Toledo.
The Tigers also want him to continue working on a changeup.
“That’s another reason (for sending him down),” Ausmus said. “It allows him time to work on the changeup, which I think will help him in the long term. If he’s pitching at the big league-level, he can’t be working on a third pitch coming out of the bullpen.”