Fulmer's spirits are up, but time is running out; Peterson among Tigers cuts

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Lakeland, Fla. – At least his sense of humor is intact.

Tigers starting pitcher Michael Fulmer, facing the strong possibility of starting the season in extended spring training here in Lakeland, joked about the role he could play for the Tigers right now.

Michael Fulmer

“I know I have three innings in me, maybe 45-50 pitches,” he said. “Probably all I can be is an opener right now.”

Fulmer has been pulled from the Tigers' spring rotation while he strengthens his surgically-repaired right knee and adjusts his mechanics to pitching without the restrictive knee brace. Despite all of his efforts to expedite it, the process remains slow.

And the days are now numbered before the Tigers break camp on March 27.

“It’s going to be tough,” he said. “Obviously, I want to be out there. But I don’t want to be that guy who goes out there at 80-percent efficiency and not help the team win. I’d rather be at 110 percent, knowing I am healthy and fully confident I can put up zeros.”

Fulmer has thrown one bullpen without the brace. That was Friday. Since, he’s been doing a multitude of drills and exercises designed to strengthen the knee and reboot the power in his delivery.

“When we ditched the knee brace, it was full speed ahead,” Fulmer said. “We’re kind of working through it, trying to do everything we can to get to the point where we’re comfortable.”

He’s doing a lot of leg and core work in the weight room. He’s doing agility drills on the field. He’s doing skater drills, full-body resistance drills with bungee chords. The result of all that, his right knee was swollen noticeably on Monday.

“It looks worse than it feels,” he said. “It’s normal. It’s going to do that. Then it goes back down. I will take it light for a couple of days, then go back to it. I am trying to get back out there 100 percent but as quickly as I can, too.

“I am trying to get some power back, and the knee is going to react aggressively to that. But the pain is still gone.”

Fulmer had the surgery last September. He’s been in Lakeland for four months trying to get ready for the season opener on March 28. To be this close, yet still so far away is, to say the least, frustrating.

“It sucks,” he said. “I am trying to get there. But if I’m going to miss any time, I’d rather miss two weeks now than two months later. That’s where we’re at.”

Peterson, Funkhouser cut

Among the four players sent back to the Tigers' minor-league camp Monday, none had a more productive camp than outfielder Dustin Peterson. Claimed off waivers from the Braves last September, Peterson hit .306, with a .375 on-base percentage, slugging .417 and driving in a team-high nine runs.

“I think I showed more,” he said. “I felt like I showed versatility, too. I hit the ball, I played outfield and infield (first base). I felt like I had a really good camp here.”

The numbers were against him from the start, though, with Niko Goodrum and Josh Harrison – two infielders who can also be used as extra outfielders.

“I still feel good about what I did here,” he said. “It’s their decision to send me down. It’s part of it. It’s a business. I am just going to take care of my business down there and try to get up to where I need to be.”

Peterson and right-handed reliever Zac Reininger were optioned to Triple-A Toledo. Right-handers Louis Coleman and prospect Kyle Funkhouser were reassigned to minor-league camp. Both are expected to start the season in Toledo, also.

Twitter @cmccosky