| Detroit Free Press
Detroit Tigers manager AJ Hinch evaluates Michael Fulmer, Tarik Skubal after win
Detroit Tigers manager AJ Hinch talks about two of his pitchers Saturday, March 6, 2021, after the team’s 6-5 win over the Baltimore Orioles.
Evan Petzold, Detroit Free Press
SARASOTA, Fla. — Detroit Tigers pitcher Michael Fulmer has had a heck of a week.
The most important, life-changing part? His wife, Kelsey, gave birth to a girl, Sadie Caroline.
“Both are healthy and doing well,” Fulmer said.
While juggling daddy duties, Michael threw a bullpen to a friend back home in Oklahoma. He returned to Lakeland on Wednesday and immediately went into quarantine — everything gets complicated when players go outside of the bubble.
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Fulmer was cleared to return to the Tigers’ facility on Friday and made his debut on Saturday against the Baltimore Orioles, which he called a “rusty” but “good” performance. He went two innings, gave up one hit and notched a strikeout, as the Tigers hung on for a 6-5 victory.
“It’s been a long and very exciting week for me,” Fulmer said. “A little rusty, kind of thrown off my routine a little bit, but for good reasons.”
But manager AJ Hinch said Fulmer was being too hard on himself.
“I thought his stuff was actually probably better than he may have even thought,” Hinch said. “First outing. The long lay off. Go home for the baby birth. I think he’s got to give himself a little bit of margin for error there.”
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Fulmer hit 93 mph on the stadium radar gun.
“It might sound cliché, but if the velocity is not back, it’s not back,” Fulmer said. “I’ve got to learn to pitch without it.”
If he can prove that he can go five innings, he will secure a spot and solidify the rotation.
Skubal’s exciting debut
Tarik Skubal also cruised through a pair of innings, allowing one hit while striking out two. Skubal threw his splitter five or six times, trying to increase his off-speed pitches and not rely on his fastball.
“Obviously his stuff was really good,” Hinch said. “The new split was pretty effective. Outside of his breaking ball command, pretty exciting stuff from him tonight.”
Skubal came out throwing 94 mph but cranked it up to 96. And he took a step — the first step — in earning a spot in the rotation.
“I understand the situation of trying to win a rotation spot,” he said. “I understand what’s going on. But at the same time, I’m not focusing on that.”
Before the game, Hinch wondered how Skubal would react.
“I think my fear is that he’s going to want to do it all tonight,” Hinch said before the game.
But Skubal handled his emotions and looked composed.
“I felt like I handled my adrenaline and my emotions pretty well,” he said. “There was one hitter … I got a little ahead of myself. I wanted to do too much and try to get a strike out before I got to two strikes.”
The fact that he has that kind of self awareness is impressive.
He sounds like a calm, experienced, driven veteran.
Baddoo continues to impress
How good is Akil Baddoo?
He looks good even when he gets out. Baddoo, a Rule 5 draft pick, came into the game tied for the Grapefruit League lead with five runs scored, ranked second with a .636 on-base percentage and was tied for seventh with a .429 batting average.
He crushed the ball in his first at bat, a line drive to right field.
He did pick up another hit in the ninth inning.
Baddoo is a long shot to make this team. But he does something impressive every day. And it would be painful for the Tigers to lose him.
Paredes making plays
To make this team, Isaac Paredes needs to show that he can play several position.
Hinch took a look at him and sees somebody who can play all over the field. So he moved him to second base. And Paredes responded by making a couple of fine defensive plays, a diving catch and a clever, nimble play to start a double play.
“His hands are really good,” Hinch said. “He fields a ball cleanly. He can throw from a lot of different angles. It doesn’t really matter where you put him, he can make plays.”
Clemens headed to first
The Tigers want versatile players.
So Kody Clemens, who normally plays second base, has been asked to start practicing at first. But that created a problem. He didn’t have a first baseman’s glove.
So he called home. His brother, Kacy, had one.
“So that’s en route,” he said.
The Tigers have also talked to him about possibly playing third.
‘We talked about it yesterday for the first time,” he said. I’m obviously open to that and trying to get my bat in the lineup. So I’ll work out wherever they want me to, and I’m excited for whatever is coming.”