The 28-year-old returned after throwing a pair of scoreless innings for Triple-A Toledo in a rehab assignment. He joined the Tigers in Minnesota on Monday to pitch in front of pitching coach Chris Fetter, assistant pitching coach Juan Nieves and athletic trainer Doug Teter.
The team decided Fulmer was ready to return for the remainder of the series with the Twins at Target Field.
To make room for Fulmer’s reinstatement, left-handed reliever Ian Krol was designated for assignment. He appeared in his first outing July 9 and last pitched in Sunday’s 6-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium.
“He’s a leader and certainly a presence in our bullpen,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said of Fulmer on Tuesday. “There’s that side of him, where he’s been there, done that, been through a lot of different things and is a positive energy provider for us. On the baseball side, it lifts a little bit of a burden from (Gregory) Soto, (Jose) Cisnero, Joe Jimenez and (Kyle) Funkhouser, the guys I’ve used in the back end of that bullpen pretty regularly.
“Adding another guy who can lift some of those innings off the other guys makes us all better. He’s just an added weapon to a bullpen that’s starting to mold itself into being a reliable bullpen.”
Fulmer has not pitched in the majors since June 26, and he has thrown just five times since May 30. He went to the 10-day injured list June 6 with a right shoulder strain, returned for five games and then landed on the injured list June 27 with a right cervical spine strain.
Fulmer has a 4.05 ERA, 11 walks and 42 strikeouts over 40 innings in 25 games (four starts). Only as a reliever, he boasts a 3.62 ERA, six walks and 35 strikeouts across 27⅓ of his 40 innings this season.
“He won’t really like this because he doesn’t want to be governed,” Hinch said. “He just wants to pitch as often as he can. The first outing will be a little more scripted. It’s kind of a third outing after his injury, like a rehab outing. To bridge the middle part of the game, I could see him being in that role today and then seeing how he feels. I don’t know how aggressive we’ll play back-to-back or multiple innings. We’re just going to read and react.
“But based on his stuff in Triple A in his two outings, he’s not restricted. He’s not having an issue whatsoever. It’s more a matter of us getting him ramped back up to be a prominent part of the bullpen.”
Hinch previously said the Tigers won’t consider making Fulmer a starting pitcher again.
To activate Fulmer, however, the Tigers needed to part ways with Krol, who returned to MLB in 2021 for the first time since 2018. He pitched five games, owning a 3.86 ERA, two walks and four strikeouts over 4⅔ innings.
If Krol clears waivers, he could stick with the organization and return to Triple-A Toledo.
“We’d like to keep him in the organization,” Hinch said. “We’ll see how the next few days go and where his career takes him. … We just told him the reality of being the odd man out. Unfortunately, it’s going to put him in a gray area until the business side of the game sorts itself out.”
‘Encouraging sign’ from Boyd
In Lakeland, Florida, left-handed starter Matthew Boyd is scheduled to throw off the mound this weekend, which Hinch called an “encouraging sign” in his recovery. He has been on the injured list since June 15 with left arm discomfort.
“It’s his best catch that he’s had, his most intensity and the longest you can do,” Hinch said. “The next challenge is going to be off the mound, begin using the slop and making sure we don’t have any setbacks along the way. We are very encouraged with the news we’re getting.”
Boyd has a 3.44 ERA, 19 walks and 56 strikeouts over 70⅔ innings this season. He made 13 starts before landing on the injured list and hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since June 14.
Urena still out
The Tigers don’t expect to get right-handed starter Jose Urena back for a bit, as he is “barely throwing flat ground” and isn’t ready to pitch off the mound. The team placed him on the injured list July 17 with a right groin strain.
“We’ve got some work to be done,” Hinch said. “He’s got to introduce the slope and do that multiple times before he’s going to be back in competition. He’s a ways away.”
Urena, 29, has a 6.19 ERA, 37 walks and 52 strikeouts over 80 innings in 17 starts.
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.