Michael Fulmer’s slowed-down slider gains a bit of bite
Minneapolis — Starting pitcher Michael Fulmer admitted that he didn’t have his best stuff in Wednesday’s 4-1 Tigers victory over the Minnesota Twins. He said his arm felt a little heavy. But that didn’t have any impact on his fastball velocity, which was still ringing in between 96 and 97 mph.
It did, however, impact his slider and change-up — in a good way.
The velocity was down some 3 mph on his slider. He’d been throwing it between 86-87 mph all season. On Wednesday, the average velocity was 83.9 — more of an off-speed offering than a power pitch.
“Whether we were planning for that or not — I don’t think so — but it worked,” Fulmer said. “It could’ve been everything felt a little dead. My change-up was good because of it, too, it was a little slower.
“It’s something we can take into consideration for the next start — maybe slow things up.”
During spring training, pitching coach Chris Bosio got Fulmer to change the shape of his slider — throwing it slower with more of an east-west break. But that change didn’t come north with Fulmer.
Once the season started, he went back to throwing a harder slider with more downward motion on it.
“I’ve been trying to get more vertical break on it, as opposed to it being so sweepy,” Fulmer said.
More importantly, Fulmer has noticed the slider is flattening out after about 70 pitches. That’s what got him in trouble in his last start against the Mariners. He still wasn’t confident in the pitch late in his outing Wednesday.
“I felt bad for Grayson (Greiner, catcher),” Fulmer said. “He was putting down the right fingers, calling the right pitch, but I kept shaking him off. I didn’t want to throw the slider there; I wasn’t sure. So I kept pounding the four-seam and two-seam.”
It turned to be the correct choice. But seeing the swings at the slower slider gave him some food for thought.
“The velocity differnence was huge for me today,” he said. “It kind of kept them off-balance.”
Around the horn
Brian Dozier led off the first inning with a line drive over center fielder Leonys Martin’s head. The ball stuck to the wall, literally. It hit between the seams in the padding and stuck. It was ruled a double. “I’ve never seen a ball get stuck in the wall like that,” Fulmer said.
… Nick Castellanos had a double and single. It was his 19th multi-hit game of the season. He ranks fourth in the American League. He’s produced a hit in eight of the last nine road games and 12 of the last 16 games overall.
… Left-hander Matthew Boyd, who left his start Tuesday with an oblique cramp, was feeling better and is expected to stay on his regular program. “It looks like he’s going to be OK,” Gardenhire said. “If what he says is correct, he will make his next start.”