Fulmer's takeaway from arbitration loss to Tigers? 'If I want more money, pitch better'

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Tigers pitcher Michael Fulmer says he didn't take the arbitration process personally.

Lakeland, Fla. — Michael Fulmer left his arbitration hearing last week feeling pretty good about his case. Then, on his way back to Lakeland, he scrolled through his Twitter feed and found out that earlier in the day, arbitrators had ruled in favor of three other starting pitchers — Gerrit Cole, Alex Wood and Trevor Bauer.

“Statistically speaking, players win 40 percent of the time,” he said. “Then the three guys who went before me all won their cases. That threw a little wrinkle into the thing. But, it may not have been that, you never know.”

Fulmer, who was seeking $3.4 million, was awarded the team’s price — $2.8 million. And as far as he’s concerned, though he’s wiser for going through the process, it’s over and he’s ready to move on with no regrets or recriminations.

“Yeah, I walked past Al (Avila, general manager) and I shoved him out of the way,” Fulmer joked. “No. Listen, none of this has any bearing on me. I’m not going to complain about my salary. I am blessed to play this game. I am blessed to get paid the way I do to play this game.

“I am excited to go out and get more wins for the team and keep moving the market up a little bit.”

Where Bauer called parts of the process a "character assassination," Fulmer had no such complaints. He said the Tigers were very professional about it, and even led their case by saying they were happy with his performance when healthy and that they didn’t take that for granted.

“The commissioner’s office also presents their case at the end,” Fulmer said. “I didn’t know about that. The Tigers weren’t bad at all. Obviously, I’ve been hurt. I get that. But the commissioner’s office was a little harsh.”

Fulmer now has missed three days of camp, one with the hearing and last Friday and Saturday when he flew home to be with his father, who was about to have quadruple bypass surgery.

“Everything is good,” Fulmer said. “I wanted to fly home and be with him before he went into surgery. The thing was, he was supposed to have the surgery Friday at 8 a.m., and it was postponed until Saturday at noon.

“I had a 2 p.m. flight to get back here. He didn’t get into the operating room until three and I was already flying. The tough part was flying and not knowing how it went.”

It ended up being a five-hour surgery, and his father is now home and recovering well.

Fulmer, asked again if he was frustrated by the arbitration decision, said, “Nah, I just keep telling myself, if I want more money, I’ve got to pitch better. That’s what I am looking to do this year.”

Striking out cancer

Odd sight early in the day Monday: Tigers left-hander Daniel Norris talking in earnest to former St. Louis Cardinals closer Jason Motte. First thought was, is Motte giving Norris tips on closing games?

“No, no,” said Motte, laughing. “I don’t even know how to be a closer. I barely knew when I was a closer.”

Well, his 42 saves in 2012 told a different story about that. But his reason for teaming with Norris was more significant. Motte, through his Jason Motte Foundation, spearheads the successful Let’s Strike Out Cancer campaign.

Norris, who survived thyroid cancer in 2015, is the Tigers’ K Cancer representative. Motte was shooting a video of Norris’ testimonial.

“Having Daniel tell his story, him being a cancer survivor, it really helps,” said Motte, who was born in Port Huron. “A lot of players know there are things bigger than the game. Now that I am done (he retired after 2017), I can focus more on this.”

Motte, who is doing all the video work himself, has had a K Cancer rep on all 30 teams for six years. He is soliciting testimonials from players in Florida and Arizona this spring. Norris was his first.  

Around the horn

… Right-hander Franklin Perez, one of the Tigers top prospects, was held out of practice Monday because of a stomach illness.


Twitter: @cmccosky