Detroit Tigers reliever Michael Fulmer — recovering from a right cervical spine strain — maintained 96-97 mph with his fastball and touched 98 mph in his first rehab assignment outing for Triple-A Toledo.
“He was really good,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said Friday. “Clearly he got to the competition and felt like he could let it go. That’s a great sign.”
Fulmer entered for the eighth inning in Thursday’s 7-2 win over Indianapolis, the Triple-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. He allowed a double and a walk to start his appearance but sent down the next three batters, including one strikeout, for a scoreless innings.
He threw eight of 17 pitches for strikes.
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His next game is scheduled for Sunday, which could determine whether he is activated from the 10-day injured list. The right-hander has been sidelined since June 27 with the neck injury. Since May 30, he has only thrown in five games for the Tigers.
“What a great first competitive inning for him in a long time,” Hinch said. “Certainly a step in the right direction.”
Fulmer replaced starter Drew Hutchison, who fired seven scoreless innings. He allowed three hits, without a walk, and struck out eight batters. Miguel Del Pozo allowed two runs in the ninth inning. Second baseman Kody Clemens went 3-for-4 with two home runs, two RBIs and one walk.
Once Fulmer returns, Hinch will have numerous relievers available for high-leverage situations: Fulmer (4.05 ERA in 25 games), Gregory Soto (2.70 ERA in 42 games), Jose Cisnero (2.83 ERA in 45 games), Kyle Funkhouser (2.39 ERA in 27 games) and an emerging Joe Jimenez (6.93 ERA in 29 games).
“I just love the depth and the versatility that we have,” Hinch said. “The fact that all of our guys can go one-plus (innings) is a huge advantage. I know I sold that pretty hard at the beginning of the season. The versatility is still one of my favorite qualities that our ‘pen has because it can virtually do anything that we need for our team, and the players have responded.”
Before going to the injured list, Fulmer pitched 21 of 25 games as a reliever. Coming out of the bullpen, he owns a 3.62 ERA, six walks and 35 strikeouts across 27⅓ innings.
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Grossman on the bases
Outfielder Robbie Grossman, in his first season of a two-year, $10 million contract, has provided the Tigers with a steady bat in the lineup. He is hitting .231 with a career-high 15 home runs, 46 RBIs, 63 walks and 94 strikeouts.
While the 31-year-old has a low batting average, his on-base percentage is .356. He is also showing his value on the bases, with a career-high 12 stolen bases. His previous best was nine steals across 138 games for the Oakland Athletics in 2019.
“He pays attention,” Hinch said. “That’s one thing he’s brought to the table. I think he’s impacted other players with how much he pays attention on the bases. It’s not just running for the sake of running. His efficiency is really good, success rate is really good.
“Robbie has been the leader in that, when it comes to small things that go unnoticed on the bases. He’s been able to translate that into more success and being a little bit more aggressive on the bases. It’s part of Robbie’s game that should be no surprise. The more I talk about him, the more I love him.”
Grossman has been caught stealing just four times.
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.