Lakeland, Fla. – Michael Fulmer didn’t want to go there.
If you do the math, and he stays on five-day schedule, Fulmer is in line to be the Detroit Tigers’ Opening Day starter against the Pirates on March 29.
“I haven’t been told nothing,” he said.
Huh. Double-negative. Does that mean you actually have been told?
“Don’t manipulate me," Fulmer said, laughing.
Put it this way: If he stays healthy and is pitching as sharp as he looked in his three innings of work against the Mets Friday – which ended in a nine-inning, 4-4 tie – it would be a shock if he wasn’t on the mound Opening Day.
“It would be an honor, but it’s Gardy’s call,” Fulmer said of Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire. “Whatever happens, we trust him. He’s leading the charge.”
He won’t campaign for it, but as competitive as he is, you know he wants it.
“It’s on everybody’s bucket list, honestly,” Fulmer said. “It’s one of the biggest honors in the game. But it’s something you can’t control. You let the manager decide that.”
When asked earlier in the spring about who might start Opening Day, Gardenhire said, “Go ask Alexa.”
He was only slightly more expansive on the topic Friday.
“I’ll talk to Boz (pitching coach Chris Bosio) about it eventually,” he said. “Let’s just get these guys stretched out and feeling great and we’ll figure it all out. We’ve got a lot of decisions to make here and that’s not one we’re going to make right now.”
This was Fulmer’s second start of the spring, and it came 12 days after his first. He was skipped for one turn because of elbow soreness. He felt no such soreness Friday.
“It’s all good,” Fulmer said. “Everything is good. Full-go. No problems.”
He threw 23 pitches in his first outing. He threw 51 in three solid innings, including 35 strikes. And, unofficially, he threw 15 sliders, which was the pitch that caused the soreness two weeks ago.
“Everything felt good,” he said. “The sinker and change-up were good, the slider was hit and miss. I felt like I only made two mistakes. Everything felt crisp.”
One of the mistakes was a hanging, 0-1 slider to Kevin Plawecki, his former catcher in the Mets system. Plawecki hoisted it over the wall in left field.
“Yeah, he caught me a few times,” said Fulmer, who came up in the Mets system before coming to the Tigers in the Yoenis Cespedes trade. “I’ll send him a text later and tell him, ‘You are welcome.’”
It was the only damage Fulmer allowed. His fastball was steady at 95-96 mph. Of his five strikeouts, three were on called third strikes.
“I was shocked they ran me back out there for the third inning,” Fulmer said. “Bosio came up to me and I expected him to shake my hand. But he said, ‘How do you feel?’ I said I felt great and said, ‘Good, let’s do another one.’
“I was glad to get to throw three. It’s almost like I didn’t miss a beat with the skipped start.”
Jones still hot
The Tigers scored all four of their runs in the fifth inning. JaCoby Jones pounded a three-run home run and Dixon Machado followed with a solo shot to the left-field berm.
Jones is making a bid to steal the extra outfield spot. He has seven hits and four walks in 21 plate appearances this spring. He’s played mostly in center, but Friday he played left and made a dazzling diving catch in short left-center.
“He’s an exciting player,” Gardenhire said. “I think he gets after it. He can play all over, it looks like to me. He seems to have a great first step to the ball and he covers a lot of ground. He makes it look easy.
“And I like his energy in the dugout. Even when he’s not playing, he’s paying attention.”
Jones, who has a minor-league option remaining, is in the hunt for the fourth outfielder role with Rule 5 draftee Victor Reyes, Mike Gerber, Jim Adduci and Chad Huffman.
The Mets tied the game in the seventh on a two-out single by Ty Kelly off Tigers right-hander Enrique Burgos.
Left-hander Blaine Hardy, whose pitching program has been stalled by impingement in his left shoulder, was cleared to throw a bullpen on Saturday. Bosio said he needed to make up three bullpens and three game outings before he could be considered for the Opening Day roster.
… Miguel Cabrera stepped to the plate Friday to different walk-up music. Turns out, the music was recorded by Tigers utility man Ronny Rodriguez, who is trying to carve out a second career as a Latino rap artist. You can find some of his videos on YouTube.
… The Tigers had a chances to take the lead in both the seventh and eighth innings. Alexi Amarista was thrown out from right field by Philip Evans in the seventh. Amarista had tagged from third on a fly to medium depth right field. Same in the eighth. John Hicks led off with a triple and was stranded. Harold Castro, Adduci and Brayan Pena all grounded out.