Tigers' Michael Fulmer showcases electric arm and all the trimmings

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Detroit — No one would blame Michael Fulmer if he was a little nervous in his return to Comerica Park on Friday morning. The last time he pitched off the mound was Sept. 15, 2018 and it was an inauspicious exit, giving up two home runs in only five pitches.

Knee surgery followed. Then came Tommy John surgery.

On the first day of Summer Camp, a slimmed-down Fulmer got back on the horse for a short bullpen session. After a spring of rehabbing his elbow with expectations of missing the original Opening Day, but with the delayed start to the season because of COVID-19, Fulmer is in line to be ready when the season begins later this month.

The early signs were positive.

Michael Fulmer

“My first pitch was dotted down and away, so I dropped the ball and wanted to walk off but (pitching coach) Rick (Anderson) said I had to stay up there and throw about 20 more,” Fulmer joked. “A little bit of extra time is helpful for anybody. I’m just not trying to rush it as much. We didn’t. So, we took our sweet time and got everything done right before we progress to the next step and I think that was kind of big for me personally, in my rehab process with the elbow.”

What was immediately noticeable about Fulmer is that he trimmed down his physique and his arms looked more muscular. After elbow and knee surgery, slimming down will be beneficial to staying healthy and not putting as much pressure on his knees.

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Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire noticed the difference.

“He’s in probably as good a shape as I’ve seen him. I haven’t been around as long as most people but he looks good,” Gardenhire said. “The ball was coming out of his hand fine and now it's just about getting back. We're going to face hitters. He's been doing these things for a long time here and really working hard at it, so good for him and hopefully, it'll be good for us as we move forward.”

Fulmer said one of the keys was being able to stay in Lakeland, Florida, after the original spring training was canceled and to continue his pitching regimen with the help of some coaches. In addition, he worked on his diet and did some cooking with his wife to avoid veering away from healthy meals.

Staying in shape

“Everything’s felt good and that's what I need to do, especially for the knee, is try to lose a little bit of weight, and luckily just able to work out down in Lakeland, but I feel good, feel strong,” Fulmer said. “I just feel more efficient. I feel like I'm using my body in better ways and less stress off the elbow, less stress off the knee. So, I think that was kind of our goal going into it was to just be more efficient and not so violent.

“Those aspects are still going to be there but just try to find a way to put my body in the best position I can while still not sacrificing production.”

With so much time off away from baseball following the surgeries, Fulmer has to get reacquainted with his routines and the feel for the game, but he’s throwing all of his pitches. There’s no concern about his fastball velocity or the bite on his slider, but just getting the feel back.

“There’s a desire there, not matched by too many guys in this camp, to prove he can do this again," Gardenhire said.

Day one, done.

Taking care of business

JaCoby Jones was productive in his downtime during after spring training, making do with what he could to stay in baseball shape while at home during the three-month hiatus.

There was an expectation that baseball would return and Jones stayed ready with some unusual resources.

“I have a cage and pitching machine at my house in Mississippi, so I just ran some sprints out in the woods and just hit off the machine every day and that's pretty much it,” Jones said. “I just worked out; I have a weight room in the cage also so I kind of had a good setup.”

Jones said he ran 50-, 60- and 100-yard sprints to maintain his conditioning.


Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard