Detroit — The Tigers won’t make it official just yet, but Michael Fulmer is close, very close to pitching again for the Tigers.
Like, maybe as soon as Friday.
“He’s going to throw again on Friday, up to 70 pitches,” manager Ron Gardenhire said before Tuesday's game. “We aren’t going to announce anything. We will see how it goes. He’s here and we are happy to see him.
“Everything went really good. He’s got one more hurdle to get over and we’ll go from there.”
So Fulmer, who threw a full bullpen session here Tuesday, will pitch either against the White Sox at Comerica Park or in Toledo against the Columbus Clippers.
“I was really excited by how my bullpen went today and Rick Anderson (pitching coach) was too,” Fulmer said. “My velo is up higher than it’s been most of the season. The slider is a lot better. The change-up got swing and misses, too. I just have to transfer that to the big-league game.
“Everything is looking up for me. I was so stoked about my rehab starts and my bullpen today was probably the best I’ve thrown all year. I know you get that a lot, but I honestly felt like it was.”
Fulmer, who spent the last three weeks in Lakeland, didn’t allow a run and struck out 11 in six innings over two rehab starts at High-A. He was healing from an oblique strain, but he took the time to do a slight mechanical make-over, as well.
“This might’ve been a blessing in disguise,” he said. “Because I could really focus everything I had on things I was trying to change. I feel like my mechanics are much more sound. I’m throwing with less effort and the ball is coming out better.”
He was steadily between 96-98 mph with his fastball in Florida, and his slider finally had the shape and bite he’d been searching for, something he thought he found during the All-Star break, just before he strained his oblique in his first bullpen after the break.
“The worst time to get injured because I really felt like I was making strides,” he said. “Especially with my slider, and my fastball, too. But I had two or three weeks in Lakeland to work on it full-time. And coming back here today and throwing it in front of Rick, he was shocked too.
“I was happy I could show him that I’d been working.”
It was the slider search that got his mechanics out of whack in the first place and contributed to his inconsistency this season (3-9, 4.50 ERA, 1.32 WHIP). In his efforts to get on top of the pitch, his arm slot kept getting higher, which was robbing his pitches of the late life.
He used a great analogy to explain it. He said you try to hit a punching bag with your arm and fist raised above your shoulder. Then try hitting it again with your arm and fist even with your shoulder. You get more power, more drive from the latter, because you are engaging the scapula.
Fulmer discovered with the raised arm slot he wasn’t properly engaging his scapula in his throwing motion.
“My dad always told me, when you punch somebody, punch through them,” Fulmer said. “So you will punch harder from here (arm even with the shoulder) than up here.”
He’s worked to lower his arm slot, to get the late zip, the finish, back on his pitches.
“We need him around here,” Gardenhire said. “He’s one of the leaders here. It’s really a big pick-me-up that he’s feeling good.”