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Detroit – The topic was inevitable, unavoidable.

Rookie Michael Fulmer, who only made three starts at Triple-A before the Tigers called him up, has already made five starts and thrown 26⅓ innings. With health concerns still hovering over Jordan Zimmermann (groin) and Shane Greene (finger), Fulmer is likely to stay in the rotation a bit longer.

On Tuesday, manager Brad Ausmus and his coaching staff discussed the possibility of imposing an innings limit on Fulmer this season.

“Not a hard cap or anything like that,” Ausmus said. “He threw 120 innings last year (124⅔ actually, between High-A and Double-A). You could probably add 20 to 25 percent of that.”

Ausmus went through this last year with Matt Boyd. Boyd wound up throwing more than 25 percent more than his 2014 total. He pitched 172 innings, up from 133 the previous season. So there is no hard and fast number.

“You don’t want to go over 200 innings,” Ausmus said. “And you want to be on the cautious side. But you take the person and the player into account. The build – a little bigger pitcher can probably handle it better than one who is more slightly built.”

Fulmer, 23, is 6-3, 210. He threw 98⅓ innings in 2014 and just 46 in an injury-filled 2013 season. It’s conceivable that Fulmer’s innings limit would be between 170 and 180 innings.

Zimmerman update

Zimmermann will throw for the first time since he injured the groin on Sunday on Friday.

He will throw long-toss. Ausmus said if all went well, he could throw a side session (light bullpen) on Sunday.

“Sunday is the last day we can retroactive him back (on the disabled list),” Ausmus said. “You can only go back seven days. So, we will know a little more on Friday. But it will be Sunday that we determine whether he’ll be able to pitch or have to go on the DL.”

Upton still out

Justin Upton (quad tightness) wanted to test his leg before the game Tuesday, but Ausmus vetoed it.

Upton was held out of the lineup for the second straight game Tuesday, and he’s not likely to play Wednesday, either.

“I didn’t even want him to run,” Ausmus said. “With the off day (Thursday), there is no reason to make something big out of something small.”

Upton will have four days to heal up.

In the meantime, Ausmus had to do some lineup juggling – twice. Initially, Mike Aviles was going to start in left field. But an hour or so before the game, second baseman Ian Kinsler was scratched because of flu-like symptoms.

Aviles was moved to second and Steven Moya got his third consecutive start in left.

Cameron Maybin moves into the leadoff spot.

Aiding and abetting

Closer Francisco Rodriguez is one save away from joining the coveted 400 Saves Club. He would be the sixth member, with Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman, Lee Smith, John Franco and Billy Wagner.

Ausmus caught three of them – Wagner, Hoffman and Franco.

“Franco wasn’t a closer at the time, though,” Ausmus said. “He was with us in Houston at the end of his career. In fact, he got released when we were in Cincinnati. He and I went and had a beer the last night he was in the big leagues.”

Around the horn

According to Elias, Miguel Cabrera’s 3-for-3 performance with one home run Monday was the 20th time he’s gone at least 3 for 3 with a homer in a game. Mickey Mantle and Jimmy Foxx also did the feat 20 times – third most in the modern era. Only Barry Bonds (23) and Lou Gehrig (21) had done it more often.

twitter @cmccosky

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