Tigers place Michael Fulmer on IL, mull looming roster decisions in infield, outfield
Detroit — Once the adrenalin wore off Saturday, the pain in Michael Fulmer’s neck commenced. And as manager AJ Hinch was driving home after a long, long day at the office, he got a call from head athletic traine Doug Teter.
“Doug said Fulmer would have to go on the injured list,” Hinch said. “We have to get him a whole gamut of tests. It bothered him to the point where he was going to be down for the Cleveland series and we’re not going to carry somebody who can’t pitch.”
Thus, Fulmer will be gone for at least 10 days with what the Tigers are describing as a right cervical spine strain. Left-hander Miguel Del Pozo was summoned from Triple-A Toledo to take Fulmer’s roster spot. It’s the second IL stint of the season for Fulmer.
“The normal term is his neck is bothering him,” Hinch said. “He informed me of a little discomfort after the game, but he hadn’t felt anything during his outing or in his warmups, or anything during the game. Just when the adrenalin wore off, he started complaining of an issue with his neck.”
Fulmer, whose fastball velocity was down to 94 mph (from 96), gave up a game-tying two-run home run to Yordan Alvarez and then a go-ahead solo homer to Carlos Correa in the sixth inning in the Tigers' 3-2 loss in Game 2.
Del Pozo, 28, was dominating hitters in Triple A. The former Angel and Pirate had allowed just two runs (both solo homers) in 17.2 innings, with 23 strikeouts and six walks.
“He outpitched everybody in Triple A,” Hinch said. “He’s been incredible and both Princey (Toledo manager Tom Prince) and Doug Bochtler (pitching coach) over and over told me this guy deserves an opportunity to come up.”
He came up briefly two weeks ago, but didn’t appear in a game. Hinch said he will this time.
“The command and control he’s shown this season, which quite honestly he hadn’t shown in previous stints — if he’s really found his command and stuff, his breaking ball and mid-90s fastball can play up here,” Hinch said.
The decision to send infielder Isaac Paredes back to Toledo on Saturday night was a tough one for Hinch, even though keeping Zack Short provides a much-needed defensive upgrade at shortstop.
“Very tough, just because I think Isaac is showing progress,” Hinch said. “There are things he needs to work on, but I love his actions defensively and I thought he came up with some big swings and was a little bit unlucky.
“Zack does shore up our defense at shortstop and the defensive positioning was the evaluation at the end of the day. And we want Isaac to play every day.”
Hinch indicated Paredes wasn’t the only option that was under consideration. Presumably Willi Castro or Harold Castro might’ve been in the discussion, as well.
“We have too many guys for too few positions,” Hinch said. “The competition continues. The reason it was a tough decision is because it didn’t have to be (Paredes). Isaac can go down and play every day and continue to put some pressure on other guys. We’re going to have these continued evaluations.”
Especially when Niko Goodrum is ready to return from the injured list, which isn't expected for at least another week.
Before the start of every new series, Hinch gathers his staff and they break down the opponent and build a game plan. At the end of the strategy session the discussion turns to the looming personnel decisions.
“The hot topic right now is the outfield,” he said.
Derek Hill is close to returning off the injured list. He’s been tearing it up in his rehab starts. Victor Reyes won’t be too far behind. So how do you re-integrate those two when Robbie Grossman, Akil Baddoo, Daz Cameron and Nomar Mazara are getting the job done?
“Hill is playing very well and he did nothing wrong to get sent down,” Hinch said. “He just got hurt running into a wall and making a catch. What do we do when he comes back? Reyes is a little further behind. We still haven’t conquered the injury in its totality.”
That’s why Reyes remains in Lakeland.
“We’re talking about it and it’s a struggle to decide what to do with the outfield,” Hinch said.
Grossman and Baddoo are locks to stay in the mix. Cameron has played well in all facets of the game. Mazara, who has struggled all season, got two hits in Game 2 Saturday and is starting to show signs of coming out of it.
The Tigers could facilitate Hill by sending a reliever down, but that’s a hard sell with two spots in the rotation iffy.
“It’s a real dilemma,” Hinch said. “But it’s a good problem to have when you are getting pushed by your younger players.”
On deck: Indians
► Series: Three games at Progressive Field, Cleveland
► First pitch: Monday-Wednesday — 7:10 p.m.
► TV/radio: Monday-Wednesday — BSD/97.1 FM.
► Probables: Monday — RHP Matt Manning (1-1, 3.38) vs. RHP Eli Morgan (0-2, 10.32); Tuesday — RHP Jose Urena (2-8, 6.00) vs. RHP J.C. Mejia (1-2, 4.94); Wednesday — RHP Wily Peralta (0-1, 5.00) vs. RHP Cal Quantrill (0-2, 3.64).
► Manning, Tigers: He has grinded through his first two starts on the strength of his four-seam fastball (93 mph). Hitters are 6 for 33 against it with four punchouts. Some secondary data indicates he’s going to have to start landing his breaking ball and change-up more regularly. The average exit velocity on balls put in play against him is a loud 92 mph.
► Morgan, Indians: This will be his third start since coming back from Triple A. He doesn’t throw a pitch harder than 89 mph, yet he’s got 14 strikeouts in 8.2 innings in his last two starts. He’s also allowed seven earned runs. His best pitch is his 75-mph changeup, getting 36.7% whiff rate with it.