Fulmer to showcase change-up more in Thursday's encore

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Cleveland  — Listening to Michael Fulmer talk about pitching, you can forget he just turned 23 and has one major-league start under his belt.

He will make his second start Thursday against a heavy left-handed hitting Cleveland lineup. He won his debut last Friday against a Twins team that features several dangerous right-handed hitters.

He didn’t have to be told about making adjustments.

“I will probably throw my change-up more,” he said. “I had the feeling Friday against the Twins, just from the way they were putting swings on my fastball — and me and Bobby (Wilson, catcher) were on the same page on this — I didn’t feel the need to shy away from the fastball.

“I wanted to set the tone. We had a three-run lead before I even stepped on the mound, so I wanted to attack the zone and establish my fastball. Especially on the inner half so when the relievers came after me, they could work down and away like they usually do.”

This isn’t some rube with an upper-90s fastball. This guy understands how to pitch, and he has the makings of an elite arsenal. He throws his four-seam fastball comfortably at 96-97 mph. He throws a sinking two-seamer only a tick slower than that. His slider, which is hard and biting, roars in at 88-89 mph.

That’s why he’s the consensus No. 1 prospect in the Tigers’ organization. Yet, all he’s heard for two years is that he needs to develop a third pitch.

He’s hoping to show on Thursday that he has one. He threw just six change-ups against the Twins, none resulting in a hit or a hard-hit ball.

“This time around I’m going to work on my change-up more,” Fulmer said. “I have the utmost confidence in the pitch. I think you guys will see.”

He spent a good portion of his offseason working on the pitch. He uses a Vulcan grip, a quasi split-fingered grip similar to what former Tiger Joaquin Benoit used.

“I’ve been using it since 2012, but last year was the first year I started throwing it with runners in scoring positions and throwing it to left-handed hitters as opposed to the slider,” Fulmer said.

The change-up was hit a fair bit this spring, but Fulmer said that was a product of bad location.

“I left a few up, that’s why I got hurt on that pitch,” he said. “I’m getting good action and good difference in velocity. If I can keep it down, it should be fine.”

Clear the head?

Cameron Maybin (shoulder) served as Toledo’s designated hitter again Wednesday. He still isn’t throwing the ball well enough to play center field. But he’s getting there. Manager Brad Ausmus said the thought did cross his mind to give J.D. Martinez a mental health day.

Martinez, before singling in his final at-bat Tuesday, was in a 3-for-20 funk and had struck out three straight times. He has not missed a game yet this season.

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“I thought about it,” Ausmus said. “But it’s so hard. You don’t like to take these guys out of the lineup. You want them in there. But he’ll have to get a day off pretty soon.”

Neither Ausmus nor Martinez think him moving up to the No. 2 spot in the order has had any ill-effects.

“I don’t think it’s the spot in the order,” Ausmus said. “He’s not swinging the bat any different.”

Martinez agreed.

“Same approach,” he said. “Just going up there looking for my pitch and getting ready to hit. The only difference is, I maybe don’t have to be as defensive in certain situations because I know they aren’t going to pitch around me with Miggy (Cabrera) behind me.”

Maybin update

Ausmus said he has been throwing the ball from 120 feet.

“He was close yesterday and they decided to wait, and today was an early game, so they decided to wait again,” Ausmus said. “The problem with playing outfield, you can play for a week and get a throw.”

Before Maybin gets cleared from his rehab assignment, he will need to show he can make all the throws — throws from both gaps and throws to the plate.

Maybin is expected to play in the outfield when the Mud Hens return home Friday.

Around the horn

The Tigers bullpen has been on point. It has allowed just two runs in the last 29⅓ innings.

… Right-hander Shane Greene (blister) continues to progress. He threw from 120 feet before the game. The next step would be to throw off a mound. He could come off the DL as early as Tuesday. 

Twitter: @cmccosky