The Tigers game against the Phillies on Sunday was notable for a couple reasons. First, we saw Matt Manning get the start despite having been moved to minor league camp last week. Second, we saw Michael Fulmer work in relief for the first time. Finally, and most exciting, were a pair of home runs from Niko Goodrum, and the unstoppable Akil Baddoo.
Here was Baddoo against veteran starter Chase Anderson in the third inning. This 104 mph laser got out on a line and in a hurry. Baddoo struck out once in three ABs, and reached on a fielder’s choice in the fifth inning. He then promptly stole second base. We keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, but his poise and control in the box continues to look very impressive. He’s not just running into some bad pitches here. The takes and the batspeed are for real.
Niko Goodrum has had a brutal spring camp so far, enough that there are questions about his roster spot despite his outstanding versatility as a utility player. This swing had to feel good. That was a loud home run, that left the bat at 108 mph and soared 432 feet out onto the road beyond the right field wall.
On the pitching side, Matt Manning went two innings and didn’t have very good command in the first frame. Andrew McCutcheon and Odubel Herrera greeted him with singles to start the game, and Manning struggled a bit out of the stretch, walking Bryce Harper before inducing a hard double play ball to second base. SS Willi Castro made the play, but Renato Núñez dropped the soft throw, blowing the double play and allowing an extra run to score. Matt Joyce followed with a single before Manning had had enough, quickly dispatching the final two batters of the frame on strikes.
Derek Holland tossed the third and continues to look outstanding, pumping riding 95 mph heat with command and spinning a nasty slider in there. The Phillies put together a pair of soft singles against him but no more.
The real story on the pitching side was Michael Fulmer’s move to a relief position and the fact that he then put together his best outing of the season. This was the first time we’ve actually seen Fulmer pitch, and it was notable that he’s really shortened his stride as part of the ongoing effort to take pressure off his right knee. As a result, his velocity is going to play down a little further. On the positive side, his command was excellent on Sunday. Fulmer touched 94 mph, and sat 92-93 in his outing, but he mixed in some really good looking changeups and curveballs to Phillies’ hitters.
Fulmer allowed just one hit in three innings of work, while collecting three strikeouts. Notably he racked up nine whiffs in facing 10 hitters. That’s a pretty good amount. The road ahead for Fulmer continues to look like a long one, and it’s doubtful this outing changed A.J. Hinch’s mind about a potential rotation spot. Still, when you see Fulmer spotting his secondary pitches well and pitching aggressively, there still appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel. Now we’ll see whether he can do that with some consistency.