Tigers’ Fulmer hopes to ‘keep rolling’ vs. Indians

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — He started the season at Triple A Toledo.

And ever since Michael Fulmer’s been in the big leagues, he’s had to answer questions about his workload limitations.

Not anymore. Fulmer gets the ball Friday night for what fans certainly are viewing as the biggest game of the Tigers’ season so far — Game 1 of a critical three-game set against the AL Central-leading Cleveland Indians.

Who could’ve imagined?

“I think every game from on out is the most important game of the season,” Fulmer said late Thursday afternoon. “I know what I’m up against. I’m not gonna let it bother me.

“Once I get out there, it’s like my debut in Minnesota. Once I threw that first pitch, all the nerves went away. I just pitched, had fun, the way the game should be played. I think tomorrow will be the same thing.”

The Tigers have their three best pitchers going, in Fulmer, Justin Verlander and Daniel Norris.

The Indians counter with three pretty good ones of their own, starting with Corey Kluber.

“Kluber’s pitching?” Fulmer said. “You can’t worry about that guy. I know our offense will get it done. My job is to put zeroes on the board.”

Fulmer (10-6, 2.76 ERA), the favorite for AL rookie of the year, is going to cross the 160-inning threshold — between minors and majors — on Friday, and will go well beyond that when he makes his final two starts of the season.

That means he’ll have more than a 25-percent bump in innings from last season, which is more than the Tigers would’ve liked.

Then again, they like the idea of making the playoffs, too, and they feel Fulmer, with his big, steady frame, can handle it.

Fulmer was asked if things feel any differently today than early in his rookie season.

“It feels like it’s September. It’s a little cooler outside,” he said. “Just another start, hopefully to keep rolling.”

Tigers willing to roll the dice with Fulmer

Sticking with it

Tyler Collins got another pinch-hit appearance in Thursday’s 5-1 loss to the Twins. He walked in the sixth inning.

Meanwhile, Steven Moya, the left-handed slugger, was nowhere to be found.

“Collins is the guy we’ve had up here all year. He’s done well for us,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “Stick with the horse that got you here.”

Collins has had some big pinch-hit moments for Detroit this season.

But before the Tigers made their September call-ups, Ausmus and GM Al Avila said they wouldn’t promote anybody unless they could be a contributor. Moya has made just one appearance, as a pinch-hitter, since being called up.

“In that situation, Collins is more useful, pretty simple,” Ausmus said. “Moya, I would’ve had ... in the last game, there was a scenario where he might’ve hit, but it just never arose.

“(Collins has) had some good and big hits for us. He’s been up here the majority of the year. He’s pinch-hit at this level quite a bit ... experience helps a little bit in that situation in terms of controlling the nerves. That’s who went went with.”

Moya has 11 extra-base hits, including five homers, in 90 at-bats for the Tigers this season. Collins has eight, including four homers, in 130 at-bats.

Between Triple A and the majors, his OPS is over. 800 this year.

Ausmus unsure Castellanos could be playoff contributor

Around the horn

Jordan Zimmermann, after pitching a simulated game Wednesday, threw a bit again Thursday and reported he felt good. He’ll have another side throwing session before the Tigers determine whether he will rejoin the rotation.

... Cameron Maybin wasn’t in the lineup after this left thumb started acting up again Wednesday, but he had a pinch-hit single in the ninth inning Thursday.

... The Tigers bullpen was used heavily against the Twins, but most guys should be available Friday, including Buck Farmer and Alex Wilson, Ausmus said.

... Indians catcher Yan Gomes was hit in the hand by a pitch during a rehab game, and might not be activated ahead of Friday’s game as planned.


Twitter: @tonypaul1984