Detroit — They have waited since last July for Michael Fulmer, not wanting to rush him to the big leagues, but reluctant also to let a pitcher so talented spend a day too long in the minors.
Friday night the Tigers get their first chance to learn how quickly the 23-year-old right-handed power starter might help their 2016 rotation.
Fulmer will start for Detroit against the Twins at Target Field. It will be his first big-league game since the Tigers got him as the blue-chipper they desperately wanted in a July deadline deal that sent Yoenis Cespedes to the Mets.
Fulmer will replace Shane Greene, who Wednesday was moved to the disabled list because of a finger blister that knocked him out of Sunday’s game against the Indians.
“I told him when he went down, I really enjoyed watching him pitch,” said Justin Verlander, who was the winning pitcher in Wednesday’s 9-4 victory over the A’s at Comerica Park. “I love his stuff. He attacks guys.”
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said the decision to go with Fulmer was relatively easy: Fulmer’s power package, which is built around a mid-90s fastball and a five-alarm slider, was considered the best weaponry to take against a right-handed Twins lineup.
“I talked to (Toledo manager) Lloyd (McClendon),” Ausmus said, “and he really likes him. He’s got stuff, for sure.”
Fulmer made three starts for the Mud Hens, and only once had trouble, last Friday in a game at Columbus when McClendon believed a small ballpark and some innocent fly balls combined to sack Fulmer with six runs.
Fulmer had allowed only two runs in his first two starts. On the season, he has a 4.11 ERA, with 20 strikeouts and five walks in 15 1/3 innings.
Fulmer is 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, and was a first-round pick by the Mets in 2011. Ausmus said Wednesday he couldn’t commit to how many starts Fulmer might make, or how many Greene might miss. Greene was placed on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to Monday.
J.D. Martinez might have gotten a lift from Wednesday’s lineup shuffling.
Justin Upton didn’t.
He had three more strikeouts, pushing his big-league lead to 35, and dropping his batting average to .195 after Ausmus had shifted him into Martinez’s old No. 5 slot.
While the Tigers’ new No. 2 hitter had a home run, double, walk, and deep line-drive sacrifice fly, Upton is still having a miserable adjustment to the American League and to a Tigers lineup that figured to gain much from its new left-fielder.
“The truth is,” Ausmus said, “at some point, Upton’s gonna get hot.”