Surgery will sideline Tigers' Michael Fulmer 3-4 months
Cleveland — Michael Fulmer, on the recommendation of orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews, will undergo ulnar nerve transposition surgery Tuesday morning and be shut down for the rest of the season.
Typically, a three-to-four-month recovery time is recommended for this type of surgery.
“This will give him enough time to be completely recovered before next season,” manager Brad Ausmus said before the game Monday.
Fulmer, the reigning American League Rookie of the Year, has been battling ulnar neuritis in his right elbow for two years. The condition causes him to feel a tingling sensation and numbness in the thumb and ring finger of his right hand.
The transposition surgery, a vastly different surgery than Tommy John ligament reconstruction, will move the nerve from behind the elbow, where it was rubbing against the bone, to the front, thus relieving the irritation, swelling and tingling.
“It just kept rearing its head,” Ausmus said. “This wasn’t elective surgery. He didn’t walk into the doctor’s office and say, ‘Hey, I want this done.’ The doctor recommended he get this done to hopefully alleviate the condition on a permanent basis.”
Fulmer said he’d been bothered by it for two years, but it got progressively worse this season. Before, it only bothered him after his starts. This year, it has bothered him more frequently, even during his outings.
He went on the disabled list at the end of July and then was shut down again after making four starts in August.
“He swears it wasn’t affecting him (on the mound),” Ausmus said. “Even to his very last start in Colorado. I went out and talked to him and he was adamant that he was fine. He told me he was fine the next day and his velocity got up to 97 mph. But it would come and go.
“It would show up after starts and on the rare occasion it would show up during his start. It never showed up during a start until the New York outing.”
That’s when a pitch got away from him and hit Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez, part of the fuel for the brawl that ensued during that game.
“Was it affecting him on the mound?” Ausmus said. “It’s impossible for it to have no effect. But he claimed he was completely capable of pitching.”
Ultimately, Fulmer was convinced to have the surgery and try to vanquish the condition once and for all.
His season ends with a 10-12 record, 3.83 ERA and 1.115 WHIP.