In a moment of cathartic clarity — and perhaps confession — Michael Fulmer let loose Sunday after he felt he let his Detroit Tigers down in an 8-5 loss to the Cleveland Indians that sewed up a series sweep.
Fulmer is part of a starting rotation that’s struggling through injuries and poor performances, leading to five straight losses. But he considers himself the weak link in that rotation as he continues the long grind back from Tommy John surgery.
“It sucks,” he said. “We’re all frustrated. We know we can perform better, we know we should perform better and we know we have to perform better.
“And I think it honestly starts with me because I feel like I’m being that crutch on the rotation, the crutch on the bullpen because of my pitch limit.”
Fulmer was scheduled to pitch no more than three innings and he lasted 2 ⅔, throwing 58 pitches, allowing three runs on five hits, two walks and two strikeouts. The three runs came on homers by Franmil Reyes, who hit a fastball up in the zone in the second inning, and Fransico Lindor, who took advantage of a subpar slider and hit a two-run homer in the third.
Fulmer said he actually felt good after Lindor’s homer. He got the next two batters out but was pulled in favor of lefty Tyler Alexander, who faced lefty hitter Tyler Naquin.
The Tigers starter said he wasn’t told why he was pulled, but he admitted it was hard to begin a game knowing he was on a pitch-count or innings limit.
“Always having that mentality as a starting pitcher,” he said, “you strive for the late innings, the fifth, sixth, seventh innings, what you’re going to do to get there. But as far as mentality goes for just a three-inning start or 2 ⅔ it’s tough, like I said, it feels like you have to be perfect and obviously I just wasn’t today.”
The good news for Fulmer is that he has seen progress in his third start this season, which is also just his third start since September 2018.
“I can only go out there and feel as good as I can,” he said. “All three starts so far I’ve felt great. It’s a positive sign and hopefully as the season goes on, I can continue to kind of build up a little bit and do what I need to.
“Ultimately it’s (manager Ron Gardenhire’s) call and (pitching coach) Rick Anderson’s call and I’m going to trust them and whatever they think. I’ve had three starts since Tommy John surgery. Three actual starts. Like I said, I’m not making any excuses at all because I know I should be better.”
But Fulmer also made a point to say he reminds himself of the positives. Even through his own frustrations and the team’s struggles, he feels good about his recovery and believes he’s on track toward feeling normal again.
“It’s just going to take a little bit,” he said. “Hopefully all it takes is three starts. But I think each start has been me leaving feeling better and better about my mechanics, about my stuff with just a little bit of hit-and-miss here and there. So I see the positives in everything.”
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