Tigers shut down Michael Fulmer indefinitely to 'refine lower-body mechanics'

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Lakeland, Fla. — Five days ago, everybody around the Tigers camp was optimistic that Michael Fulmer was on a good path to a full recovery from the second surgery on his right knee in five years.

On Thursday, the day before Fulmer was scheduled to make his next start, the club announced, somewhat vaguely, that they were shutting down the former American League Rookie of the Year indefinitely. 

Michael Fulmer

"He took a step back to refine his lower-body mechanics," manager Ron Gardenhire read from a statement written on a legal pad after the Tigers and Red Sox played to a 4-4 tie. "We have no timetable on when he's going to get back on the mound."

Regardless of the question -- Is he dealing with a medical issue? What is your level of concern with this happening this late in camp? How does this impact the rotation the rest of the spring? -- Gardenhire just repeated the same two sentences.

"We're not going to go any further than that," Gardenhire said. "We have to let him do his thing and let the trainers do their thing."

In the meantime, Spencer Turnbull, who has been pushing for a rotation spot with a strong spring, will start against the Yankees Friday.

"We've been trying to get Turnbull stretched out, and we've been trying to get Daniel Norris stretched out," Gardenhire said. "So, that's what we're going to do." 

Fulmer was not available for comment Thursday.

In his last start, his third start of the spring, he threw 44 pitches. His first pitch of the day was at 92 mph, the rest between 84-91. He said after that start the plan for this week was to begin to work on building the explosiveness back into his right leg, and thus back into his delivery.

"Talking to the trainers all week, the strength is there and the pain is gone," Fulmer said five days ago. "Now I need to work on the explosiveness and that's something we haven't really been focused on.

"When you are coming off surgery, you are working to strengthen all the muscles. You aren't really working on those fast-twitch fibers quite yet."  

The Tigers, obviously, aren't saying whether whatever drills he did this week to promote the explosiveness caused inflammation or other issues with the knee.

"The only time I am going to start worrying is if I am not going to be built up enough (arm strength) for the start of the season," he said after his last start. "But that's not happening. Everything is going well. The arm is in great shape and now the last thing that's going to come in the explosiveness."

Fulmer, before this setback, was scheduled to make three more starts this spring. There is a real possibility now that he won't be ready to start the season. 

Tigers prospect Daz Cameron was among 10 players reassigned by the team on Thursday.

Cameron, Fernandez among cuts

The Tigers sent 10 players to the back fields and minor-league camp Thursday, including center-field prospect Daz Cameron, who made a very positive first impression.

“He showed me he knows how to play this game," Gardenhire said after the game. "I am going to leave it at that. He's pretty close to being a big-leaguer. He's going to push people, I can guarantee you that."

Cameron was one of eight players reassigned to minor-league camp. The Tigers aren’t announcing where he will start the season, but most likely, it will be at Triple-A Toledo.

Another cut, left-handed reliever Jose Fernandez who was optioned to Triple-A Toledo, was a surprise, only in that it came this soon. He had pitched effectively and was believed to be in the hunt.

"He just need to go pitch," Gardenhire said. "He needs to get innings in right now. He's got good stuff, but there is competition and we have only so many spots in the bullpen and so many spots on the roster.

"Right now we just want him to go pitch. We like him. We think he's going to be a serviceable guy this year. We think we will be able to help us at some point."

Outfielder Victor Reyes, who spent all last season with the Tigers as a Rule 5 player, was also optioned to Toledo.

"I love the kid dearly, he works his tail off," Gardenhire said. "But he needs to get at-bats. He needs a to get a season."

Right-handed pitchers Zac Houston and Paul Voelker; catchers Jake Rogers, Brady Policelli and Kade Scivicque; infielder Kody Eaves; and outfielder Danny Woodrow were reassigned to the minor-league side.

The Tigers camp roster is at 40.

Injury updates

Right fielder Nick Castellanos was scratched from the original lineup Thursday.

Because of the players association meeting Thursday morning, he wasn’t able to test his bruised left hand until early afternoon.

"He's still sore," Gardenhire said. "We need to let him get swings before we put him back out there. He will swing again tomorrow, more BP, but we're not going to push this thing. We're going to give it time."

Gardenhire said if the pain persisted on Friday, they may send him out for additional tests. 

"Just precautionary," he said. "He definitely couldn't play today, and he probably won't play tomorrow."

Castellanos was struck by a pitch on Sunday.

... Right-handed reliever Drew VerHagen has been throwing off flat ground and could throw a bullpen session soon. He was shut down after he had inflammation in his right shoulder. 


Twitter: @cmccosky