DETROIT -- Michael Fulmer has given the Detroit Tigers a surprisingly solid arm in the rotation, but even with an extra day of rest, Friday's start may determine whether he stays with Detroit. The Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels have always been tough on even the aces of the Tigers staff, and with Shane Greene drawing closer to a return, Fulmer could be the odd man out.
The off-day affords the Tigers some room in several respects. It gives the rotation an extra day in case they choose to move everyone up a day with Zimmermann's fate unknown. The Tigers have until Sunday to make a decision whether to put him on the disabled list for the Grade 1 groin strain.
Regardless of whether that happens, Michael Fulmer will start on Friday. Beyond that they haven't made a decision on who starts going forward. Fulmer has been fantastic for the Tigers so far, especially considering he's still a rookie with a work-in-progress changeup. But even with how he's been doing, a solid start might not be enough to keep him with the Tigers if Shane Greene is ready to return in the near future.
Heading into a tough west road trip, Fulmer faces an Athletics team that has been struggling (they're seven games under .500) but historically the Tigers have had a tough time pulling out a series win against them in their home ballpark. It doesn't get any easier when the team faces the Angels, where typically, the Tigers get beat soundly.
Beyond Greene, the Tigers also have Matt Boyd and Daniel Norris for options in the event Fulmer doesn't fair well or they decide to shuffle the rotation regardless. Boyd has been punishing minor league teams in Triple-A and Norris is finally showing signs of stability. Between the two, Boyd would be the better bet if the Tigers swapped Fulmer for another starter, but Greene would be the likely decision if his blister is no longer an issue.
Boyd has amassed a 2.06 ERA after eight starts, giving up 11 earned runs and three home runs across 48 innings pitched, striking out an average of 7.69 batters per nine in the process. Teams are hitting just .232 off of him and he's walking an average of 2.44 batters per nine innings.
Kinsler and Upton benefit from extra off-day
Usually, the Tigers are lucky to get out of the West Coast with an even record, and while the starting pitching has saved the bullpen so far these last several days, the off-day will still be beneficial. It also allows both Kinsler and Justin Upton to recover. Kinsler has been dealing with some weakness and lightheadedness, which flared up during batting practice on Tuesday. He still isn't feeling 100 percent, and with the off-day on Thursday the Tigers don't want it to get any worse.
The same goes for Upton, who has been dealing with right quad tightness for the last couple of days. Ausmus said on Tuesday that it's best to rest Upton before the tightness becomes anything of a long-term issue. Upton has been going through another one of his slumps anyway, so while it's not ideal for Upton to miss time, the timing could be worse.
Upton goes through short slumps of nine to 10 games then breaks out for the same period. He'd been 0-for-4 on May 21 and then had a day off on the 22nd for seven innings. He was out of the lineup after that for the quad.
Ausmus away for death in the family
The sobering news came Tuesday night, that manager Brad Ausmus' mother, Linda, had passed away. His father, still living, is in Connecticut, so he'll fly back east today to be home with his family until Friday. The thing there is, he had a planned high school graduation to attend for his daughter, Sophie, in California, so he'll be away then, too. As such, bench coach Gene Lamont will manage in his stead until Ausmus returns.
I wish I didn't have to manage today, but I do," Lamont said, mindful of the circumstances. "But I'll be alright. We had a good homestand, hopefully make it better (with a win today).