Tigers take on a reclamation project, claim Carson Fulmer off waivers

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Cincinnati – This wasn’t meant to be an organizational depth move.

The Tigers Saturday claimed right-handed pitcher Carson Fulmer off waivers from the White Sox because they think he can help them win games now.

“I don’t think we would have gone out and got him if we didn’t think he could contribute now,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “This is a big arm and our people think highly of him. If he can figure it out, get his control – maybe Andy (pitching coach Rick Anderson) can help him out – he could be an impact guy.”

Former White Sox starting pitcher Carson Fulmer

Truth is, the White Sox waited three-plus years for that to happen. A first-round pick out of Vanderbilt in 2015, Fulmer didn’t throw enough strikes, let alone quality strikes, to make any kind of impact. In 94.2 big-league innings, Fulmer has a 6.56 ERA, a 6.44 FIP (fielding independent pitching) and a 6.1 walks-per-nine-innings rate (83 strikeouts and 64 walks).

He has been both a starter and a multiple-innings reliever in his career. 

“Let’s get him here first,” Gardenhire said. “Once we do that we’ll see where he’s at and how much he’s done as far as innings and pitches. He’s a high-velocity guy who throws the living fire out of the ball. He’s had a tendency to misfire a little bit.

“First get him to throw the ball over the plate with that stuff he should be successful. He wasn’t a high pick for no reason. He’s got a great arm. Let’s just see where he’s at.”

His fastball averaged just under 94 mph last season and he also throws a cutter at 88 mph. The Tigers certainly noted that the spin rate on those two pitches (2,376 and 2,615 rpm, respectively) rank in the top 91 percentile in baseball.

The feeling is, if they can get him to command those pitches up in the zone -- he has been a low-ball pitcher for the most part -- he could be extremely effective. But, no doubt the White Sox felt the same, even as they optioned him back to Triple-A eight times before finally exhausting their options and their patience.

After the game Saturday, the Tigers options right-hander David McKay to make room for Fulmer. 

"That's a tough thing to do after you win a ballgame," Gardenhire said. "But McKay needs to find his pitches again. His breaking ball was getting a little loopy. He needs to find his stuff and he'll be back here. He helped us last year."

Twitter @cmccosky