Back To The Future: Michael Fulmer Is 'Full-Go' For Tigers

It's been a long time since he's pitched injury-free.

Will Burchfield
June 24, 2020 - 4:23 pm
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It's back to the future for Michael Fulmer and the Tigers. 

Once Detroit's most promising young arm, Fulmer is ready to reclaim his spot in the rotation -- and in the club's long-term plans -- with Tommy John surgery behind him. 

With spring training set to resume next week, Tigers GM Al Avila said Wednesday that Fulmer has been cleared for full baseball activities. 

"He’s ready to go," said Avila. "He’s actually pitched simulated games up to three innings in Lakeland, so he’s full-go. When we return he’ll be part of that 60-man (spring training roster), and I anticipate, unless he has any setbacks -- which he hasn’t yet -- that he would be available to pitch in games at some point when we get started."

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It's been a long time since we saw Fulmer on a big-league mound. He missed all of last season, and his 2018 season ended early due to a torn meniscus. It's been even longer since we saw Fulmer at his best. The last time he pitched injury-free was the first half of 2017, on his way to the All-Star Game. 

Remember that guy? He had a 3.11 ERA through his first 43 big-league starts. That's who the Tigers are hoping to see this year, with an eye toward the years to come. 

"He looks great," said Ron Gardenhire, who made a few trips this spring to the Tigers' complex in Lakeland to track Fulmer's rehab. "He’s in the best shape I’ve ever seen him. He says his knee feels great, his elbow feels great, so let's put him out there and see what happens."

There are caveats here, as there are for any pitcher who hasn't faced a major-league lineup in almost two years. For one, Fulmer's spot on the 30-man regular season roster isn't guaranteed. He has to prove in spring training that he's ready for game situations. And assuming that he does, he shouldn't be expected to cruise out of the gate. 

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"Once we get there and we see him and he starts working out, we’ll just have to figure out what we can do and how we can do it," said Gardenhire. "He’s been out a long time. Throwing live BP’s is not the same as getting in a game and covering first base, so he’s going to have to show us that he can do all those things." 

Once Fulmer gets his feet back beneath him, the hope is that the Tigers rediscover a core piece of their rebuild. It wasn't long ago that he was the ace of the future. These days the rotation is headlined by Matthew Boyd, while Casey Mize, Matt Manning and Tarik Skubal represent the hopes of tomorrow. Fulmer finds himself somewhere in between. 

This is his chance to pitch himself back into the picture. 

"He is just an immense talent, man," said Boyd. "With his heater and that sinker-slider-changeup combo that he has, everyone saw what he can do right out of the shoot in 2016. Mike’s healthy now and it’s exciting to see. It’s awesome to have an arm like Michael back. That’s just another cog in our staff, another weapon we’re going to have."