Opportunity beckons for Fulmer, Lange as Tigers put Teheran on IL
Cleveland – It’d be a stretch to call it a curse, but the Tigers’ recent luck with veteran free agent pitcher signings continues to stink.
Matt Moore, gone after two starts; Tyson Ross, gone after seven starts; Ivan Nova, gone after four starts. And now Julio Teheran.
The Tigers on Saturday placed Teheran on the 10-day injured list with a shoulder strain after just one start. And, as manager AJ Hinch said, he could be out for a while.
“We’ve done all the testing,” Hinch said. “Multiple doctors looked at it. He may even have more people look at it. But it became obvious to us we had to put him on the injured list. He’s going to miss quite a few starts.
“Shoulder strain, those are very difficult to manage while throwing. So he’s going to be shut down for a period of time here.”
Teheran, who pitched five strong innings in a win against the Indians in his Tigers’ debut a week ago, felt pain in his triceps when he was warming up to start here Friday night. Examinations showed the source of the pain was in the shoulder.
Hinch didn’t put a timetable on Teheran’s return.
“I feel for him,” Hinch said. “He worked really hard to earn a spot on our team and we got one start out of him. And it looks like an injury that’s going to keep him out for a bit. He will do his diligence and work to make himself right, but we expected him to be stable part of our rotation.
“Unfortunately, the injury didn’t allow that to happen.”
As expected, right-hander Michael Fulmer will take Teheran’s spot in the rotation. Fulmer threw 68 pitches in a strong four-inning stint against the Indians Friday. Fulmer had made three relief appearances this season, the first three of his big-league career, and allowed just two solo home runs in seven innings with 10 strikeouts.
“We wanted to put him in a position to be successful and he made a step forward in the bullpen,” Hinch said. “But I’m not sure being in the bullpen is the only reason why he’s taken that step forward.”
It was more about Fulmer regaining his strength, in his legs, body and arm, after major knee surgery in 2018 and Tommy John surgery in 2019. His fastball velocity is back up to 95-96 mph and his slider, with the increased arm speed, has more bite at 88-89 mph.
“He’s got a starter’s mindset and he also had a positive mindset when it came to being in the bullpen,” Hinch said. “He’s ready for anything and willing to do anything to help us win.”
Replacing Teheran on the active roster is rookie right-hander Alex Lange, who was activated off the taxi squad before the game to effectively take Fulmer’s spot in the bullpen.
“Goosebumps,” said Lange, whom the Tigers acquired in 2019 from the Cubs for Nick Castellanos. “It’s hard to put into words. It’s just something you dream about from the time you pick up a plastic bat in the backyard as a kid.”
Lange, whose rise through the Tigers’ system accelerated when he was moved to a relief role, impressed in big-league camp with a 97-mph fastball and a devastating curveball, as well as with his high-intensity mound presence.
Hinch said this doesn’t have to be a short-term fill-in spot for him.
“He can pitch his way to any number of roles on our team,” Hinch said. “We were happy how he attacked the strike zone. He has multiple weapons. He’s high-energy. He’s got some intensity when he pitches. When I brought him on the trip (as part of the taxi squad), I let him know anything can happen.
“I didn’t know it would happen that night. Opportunity comes fast. If he can grasp it and run with it, he can put pressure on other guys and other roles. Who knows what can happen?”
Lange said when he got the news from Hinch Friday night, he nearly blacked out.
“AJ told me I was getting called up and honestly I don’t remember much after that,” he said. “It was just a blur, just a rush of emotions, joy, excitement – a dream come true. That’s the only way to put it.”
Tigers right-hander Spencer Turnbull, who is on the non-baseball (COVID-19) injured list, was supposed to pitch or the Tigers’ alternate site team in Fort Wayne, Ind., against the Cubs’ alt-site team. His outing lasted 10 pitches before it got rained out.
“He ended up simulating the up-downs and finishing his work in an indoor facility next door,” Hinch said. “Not an ideal setup for him to get his work in. We were really happy he was going to get to face outside competition and get as close to a real-game environment we could get him, and the rain didn’t cooperate.”
Hinch said Turnbull will have to repeat the process in five or six days. The Tigers would like to be able to activate him when they get home after this 10-game road trip, but that might be too soon.
The rain cost Turnbull the opportunity to face two former teammates -- Austin Romine, his catcher last season, and Andrew Romine. Both are on the Cubs' Triple-A roster.