Tigers' McCann, Fulmer unable to get in sync vs. Angels

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — Michael Fulmer kept shaking off signs from catcher James McCann on Tuesday night. McCann kept insisting on a pitch, Fulmer kept staring in, hoping to see different fingers.

It was a rare querulous night between battery mates who typically work together smoothly.

Tigers starting pitcher Michael Fulmer catches a new ball as the Angels' Ian Kinsler rounds the bases after hitting a three-run home run during the second inning Tuesday at Comerica Park.

“That’s what happens when you and the catcher aren’t on the same page,” manager Ron Gardenhire said after the Tigers’ 9-2 loss. “There was a lot going on out there. And that’s just frustration setting in, and that’s when you’ve got to get him out of the ballgame.”

Fulmer did not survive the fourth inning Tuesday, giving up five runs, including a pair of home runs. He admitted afterward that he and McCann weren’t in sync, and he took the blame for that.”

“That’s more on me than him,” Fulmer said. “He does his research. He does the scouting reports. And I do, as well. Tonight we were off. It’s not a knock on him. I think he put down the right fingers at times.

“It was more a confidence thing for me, not trusting a couple of pitches. That’s what happens when you leave everything up. I couldn’t find the bottom of the zone except in the first inning.”

More: Tigers' Jimenez credits Gardenhire, Bosio for his turnaround

McCann said they were on the same page coming into the game, but it soon became clear Fulmer was reluctant to throw his secondary pitches.

“You sit down before a game and come up with a game plan, then you go out there and you aren’t executing your pitches,” McCann said. “It’s hard to follow the game plan when there is a lack of execution.

“Then it’s like, ‘OK, what direction are we going?' Sometimes a catcher is going to have a different direction than what a pitcher may be feeling. That was one of those days.”

McCann said he was trying to force Fulmer to trust his stuff. He wasn’t going to let him eliminate any pitches from his three-pitch arsenal.

“When he talks about how he lacks confidence in his stuff, I’m sitting back there as a catcher thinking, ‘I know you can do this, I've seen you make that pitch a thousand times,’ ” McCann said. “And he’s thinking, ‘I don’t have a feel for that.’ Those are the days you are going to struggle.

“That’s when it is tough to get on the same page — and I am speaking generally, it doesn’t matter who is pitching.”

McCann has to walk a fine line with pitchers. There have been plenty of times when he’s forced a pitcher to stick with something that’s not working early and eventually, he regains his feel for the pitch. But, ultimately, his pitch calls are suggestions. The pitchers have full authority over what they throw.

He and Fulmer reached that impasse Tuesday.

“Sometimes I see different things than he does,” Fulmer said. “He may see something different, so when I shook, he gave me the same pitch again. When that happens, I mean, my off-speed pitches weren’t there. The change-up (Ian) Kinsler hit out. My slider was hanging.”

Ah, that fatal change-up on a 2-2 pitch that the former Tiger belted for a three-run homer in a four-run second inning. Fulmer said it wasn’t a bad pitch, it was a bad call.

McCann saw it exactly the opposite way.

Kinsler had fouled off two sliders and two 96-mph fastballs. He was very late on both fastballs, barely getting a piece of each one. And Fulmer had not thrown a single change-up to that point.

“His (Fulmer’s) change-up has so much depth, we needed to get a ground ball right there,” McCann said. “If Kins hits on top of the ball and hits a roll-over ground ball to third base, we get a double play and we have a chance to get out of the inning.

“He spoiled two sliders and he spoiled two heaters. All right, we haven’t shown him the change-up. Let’s see if we can get him to hit a ground ball right here.”

The change-up stayed up and right into Kinsler swing path. Ka-boom.

“Obviously, hindsight is 20-20 and I wish I could go back and change it,” McCann said. “At the same time, if he hits on top of the ball and grounds into a double play, nobody is asking about it today.”

Ironically, Fulmer did not shake off McCann’s call for a slider. So, in one of the few instances they were in agreement, they got burned. Go figure.

Stumpf relieved

The good news for left-handed reliever Daniel Stumpf is the MRI of his elbow was essentially clean — there was no structural damage to the ulnar collateral ligament.

He was put on the disabled list Tuesday night, along with starter Francisco Liriano (hamstring), with irritation in the ulnar nerve.

“I never wanted to go on the DL,” Stumpf said. “I was always the guy who said give me the ball and let’s go. And that’s kind of what I’d been doing these last couple of weeks.”

By pitching through the pain, though, Stumpf started to manipulate his mechanics to ease the stress on the elbow. The result was a loss of command. He walked a left-handed hitter on four straight, extremely wild pitches on Monday.

“I knew something didn’t feel right,” he said. “That’s why I was back in the trainer’s room getting stuff done. They noticed some mechanical stuff and obviously the command stuff, and decided to get it checked out.

“Everybody has seen me throw in the past and it hadn’t been like that.”

Stumpf said the plan is to rest it for a few days and let the swelling subside. Then he will begin throwing.

Around the horn

The Tigers on Wednesday released, unconditionally, right-handed pitching prospect Gerson Moreno and removed him from the 40-man roster. Moreno, the 27th-ranked prospect in the organization, was on the disabled list and will have Tommy John surgery.

… Recovering pitchers Jordan Zimmermann (shoulder) and Alex Wilson (plantar fasciitis) will pitch a simulated game Friday afternoon. Wilson threw a bullpen and did some hard running on the foot Wednesday and came out feeling good. He will need to show he can field bunts and cover first before he starts a rehab assignment.

Miguel Cabrera ran, took ground balls at first base and a full round of batting practice Wednesday. Thursday likely will be a rest day for him and he will be evaluated before the game Friday. He’s been on the DL since May 4 with a hamstring strain.

Angels at Tigers

First pitch: 1:10 p.m. Thursday, Comerica Park, Detroit

TV/radio: FSD/97.1 FM

Scouting report

LHP Andrew Heaney (2-3, 3.09), Angels: He’s allowed two earned runs or less in his last six starts. Opponents are hitting just .200 and slugging .292 against him over that stretch. He throws a 92-mph sinker about half the time, mixing in a nasty curve ball (opponents’ average .156) and a change-up.

LHP Ryan Carpenter (0-1, 8.31), Tigers: This will be his third start. He’s filling in for Francisco Liriano, who went on the DL with a hamstring strain. His stuff, low-90s fastball and a slow slider, are better than the results he’s had thus far — with the Tigers and at Triple A. He’s allowed eight earned runs in 8.2 innings with the Tigers.