Detroit — A big-league debut is invariably entertaining, and often fascinating, with nerves and how they’re handled always a curiosity.
Your turn to intrigue, Michael Fulmer.
He’ll start for the Tigers in Friday night’s game against the Twins at Target Field. Brad Ausmus said Thursday that a rookie’s Adrenalin rush is natural and largely out of a manager’s control.
“Really, the catcher is the bigger facilitator there,” said Ausmus, whose Tigers team was getting ready Thursday for a 1:10 p.m. game against the A’s at Comerica Park. “You want to make sure he’s using all of his pitches. You want to slow him down when he’s rushing.
“You try to calm him down. The catcher can be the biggest advocate there.”
Fulmer will start Friday as a fill-in for Shane Greene, who has a finger blister that will move him to the disabled list.
Fulmer’s promotion is not entirely a surprise to Tigers followers. Fulmer has been the team’s top prospect since Dave Dombrowski, the team’s former general manager, wheedled Fulmer from the Mets during a tense trade-deadline deal last July that sent Yoenis Cespedes to New York.
He is 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, and generally uncomfortable for hitters of all flavors, all because of Fulmer’s fastball (it can easily hit 96) and slider (harsh break) that has crafted some impressive numbers through six minor-league seasons.
He has made three 2016 starts at Triple A Toledo, the first two of which were vintage Fulmer (11 innings, nine hits, two runs, 14 strikeouts, four walks) and the third of which (4⅓ innings, seven hits, six runs) was not.
But that rough start, last week at Columbus, was dismissed Tuesday by Mud Hens manager Lloyd McClendon.
“I have to be honest with you,” McClendon said, “that last start he was very good. Columbus is a small ballpark and a couple of home runs would have been fly balls anywhere else.
“But his stuff’s electric: fastball at 96, wipeout slider, and a change-up that’s coming along. For him, it’s a matter of slowing things down. Slowing down his pace a bit.”
It is why Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who is expected to start in Friday night’s series opener at Minneapolis, will be called on to counsel Fulmer and help throttle back a rookie pitcher who, for all his talent and experience, is bound to feel the effects of a first appearance on big-league baseball’s grand stage.
The Tigers, of course, were dealing Thursday with more immediate business: the A’s, and a Detroit team’s bid to take three of four as Anibal Sanchez was set to start for the Tigers.