Looking fit and feeling strong, Tigers pitcher Michael Fulmer makes surprise visit

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — Things happen for a reason. You’ve heard that old saw a million times, right?  But, truth is, a lot of times things just happen and you are hard-pressed to ever figure out a rhyme or reason for it.

Michael Fulmer made a surprise visit to the Tigers' clubhouse on Saturday.

Michael Fulmer, though, can point to a comforting consequence of his right elbow blowing out in March. The birth of his and wife Kelsey’s first son — Miles.  

“It was really something special to be there for that,” said Fulmer, who was back in the Tigers’ clubhouse Saturday visiting his teammates for the first time since he had Tommy John surgery. “He came two weeks early, at 11:30 at night and the team would have been in Detroit. So I would have missed the birth completely.

“And then I would have almost not seen him at all for three months after that. My wife and him would’ve come up to Detroit right about this time. So if there is a silver lining in anything, it was truly a blessing to be there for that.”

Other than the gnarly surgical scar on his elbow, Fulmer, who before the injury came to spring training looking to reclaim his role as ace of the Tigers starting rotation, looked fit and trim — his beard in solid, mid-season form, his sense of humor intact. 

“My wife’s got a Peloton and she tries to compete with me,” he said. “Sometimes she beats me, I’m not going to lie. No, everything is going well. I’m doing a lot of shoulder work, lot of rehab, forearm strengthening, things like that.

“I feel strong. I feel stronger than before.”

He’s using this time to build total body strength, which players can’t always do while going through the rigors of a long baseball season. That includes working on both arms, his core and surgically-repaired knee.

“Everything is going according to plan,” he said. “I always thought I had strong shoulders and scapulas, but you don’t realize that until you start doing a Tommy John rehab. Lots of band work, shoulder programs, scap work, new exercises that I’d never heard of before.

“But everything is working and I feel strong. Everything has been good since I’ve gotten out of the brace. Eight weeks in that brace, that was the worst part.”

Fulmer guesses he won’t pick up a baseball before October or November. The Tigers put him on a 14- to 16-month recovery plan after the surgery. So, perhaps around this time next year, Fulmer could be back on the mound.

“I’m ready to throw a bullpen right now,” he joked. “No, we’re not looking forward that far. Just trying to get my strength back. I am sure we’re going to take it slow. I just want to be sure it’s 100 percent before I do anything.”

Fulmer joked that he came back to visit because, with a 3-month-old son back home, he needed to get some sleep. But the reality is, he’s missed the game, his teammates and coaches.

“This is the longest I haven’t thrown a baseball since I was nine or 10 years old,” he said. “You start thinking about that. But I’m just happy to maybe finally get healthy and get back on the right track to where I can be.

“I’ve watched about 80 percent of the games. It’s tough. The guys I talk to, and I’ve stayed on the group messages, everybody is still trying to stay loose and have fun. Even though it’s really tough to do.”

This is also the first time in about nine years he’s been back in Oklahoma for the summer.

“Yeah, I’ve got to experience tornado season again for the first time in a while and had a couple of close calls,” he said. “Got to experience the rain season and now it’s about 100 degrees every day with quite a bit of humidity.

“But it’s been tough not being up here with these guys.”

He expects to stay with the team for a couple of days.

 “I don’t think Kelsey will let me stay more than that,” he said. “But I’ve missed it. I wanted to get back up here and see all the guys and try to have some fun for a couple of days.”

And if can sleep beyond 3 a.m. for a day or two — bonus.

"My son is getting to the point now where he can recognize voices and he smiles at us," he said. "With that comes, three o'clock in the morning and he's screaming. He knows he's about to get up so he screams until he sees my face or Kelsey's face. 

"Then he just smiles. I don't understand it. He's just so awake and happy to see us at three o'clock in the morning."


Twitter: @cmccosky