The latest edition of the Tigers Show features fallout from the trade deadline and the Hall of Fame ceremony. The Detroit News
Detroit — Michael Fulmer threw off flat ground before Wednesday's game at Comerica Park for the second time since going on the disabled list. He increased the intensity of the throws and said everything felt great. But the real test of his oblique strain may come from the tug-of-war he’s about to have with manager Ron Gardenhire and the training staff.
“Oh, they already know,” Fulmer said with a smile. “They’ve tentatively written a throwing program for me and I’ve already tried to battle it.”
Fulmer will be pushing to get back as quickly as possible. Realistically, he would like to be back in the rotation by September at the latest. The Tigers, though, are pushing back, imposing a more cautious approach.
“He’s game-on,” Gardenhire said. “We just have to slow the process down. He really wants to get going. He’s been feeling really good. But we know this is a thing that can come right back if he gets too goosey. This is all going to be under control.”
Fulmer threw for the first time on the off-day Monday. He said he played low-intensity catch from 60 to 90 feet. On Wednesday, he made 60 throws again out to 90 feet, all fastballs but at much higher intensity.
“Felt great,” Fulmer said. “Didn’t feel anything (in the oblique). The test will be when I throw off the mound.”
It’s not clear when he will throw his first bullpen. It’s been 11 days since he went on the DL, so he said he is going to make sure he builds up shoulder strength. He will throw off flat ground again on Friday, probably out to 120 feet.
“Talking to our trainers, they were saying how they don’t usually see guys playing catch 10 days after they strained their oblique,” Fulmer said. “But the way everything has progressed with the treatment, it all went really good so we decided to get on the field and play catch.
“And I’m pleased. Everything is going great.”
Fulmer has been a workout demon since the injury.
“I haven’t just been taking time off to rest,” he said. “We’ve done extra conditioning. We’ve done a lot of extra stuff in the weight room, agility stuff. I am trying to do as much as I can while I am on the DL before I actually start getting back into my routine.
“I am taking this time to get better basically any way I can. Chris (Walter, strength coach) and the strength guys have helped a ton.”
The Tigers are not putting any timetables on this, but Fulmer has his sights on making four or five more starts before the end of the season.
“I am just trying to get back as quickly as I possibly can, while staying safe and making sure it’s 100 percent healthy,” he said. “I told Rick (Anderson, pitching coach), I want to get as many starts as I can. If I had my way, I’d play catch for four or five days, throw a bullpen, make one rehab start, about 50 pitches and I’d be back.”
That’s not going to happen.
“We are going to take the process slow,” Gardenhire said. “We aren’t going to let him push this thing. We are going to make sure that once he gets healthy, he stays healthy.”
So, baby steps and kid gloves — which is the prudent method for an organization dealing with the health and future of one of its primary assets. But for that asset himself, the method is agonizing.
“I am just trying to finish out the year healthy,” Fulmer said. “Obviously, this year hasn’t gone the way I’d have liked it to. But the frustrating thing about it, I worked on some things during the All-Star break, some things with my mechanics, and I thought I found something.”
He said he felt like he was starting to get some finish, some late life, back on his pitches, which is something that had been missing in his starts before the break.
“And then I strained my oblique in the first bullpen after the break,” Fulmer said. “I made 14 really good pitches. I thought I was making progress and then that happened. It stinks. But right now, all signs are looking up and I am planning on being back sooner than later.”