The 2016 season was a monster year for Michael Fulmer. In his rookie campaign, he defied all expectations, proving himself to be an asset to the Detroit Tigers organization and a competitor to be feared by other teams. Now, in addition to his AL Rookie of the Year award, Fulmer can add a new feather to his cap: starting pitcher for the Tigers home opener on April 7 against the Boston Red Sox.
There was some speculation as to how the Tigers would structure their rotation after Justin Verlander starts on Opening Day. While Fulmer is arguably the Tigers’ No. 2 starter heading into the season, the organization still wants to limit his workload whenever possible after such a large innings jump in 2016. Plus, starting the home opener in Detroit is an honor in itself, and Fulmer has earned his place on the mound.
The Tigers open the season with three road games against the Chicago White Sox before kicking off their home schedule at Comerica Park. Opening Day is on Monday, April 3, followed by an off day. The Tigers and White Sox conclude their series with day games on Wednesday and Thursday, April 5-6. In all likelihood, Daniel Norris and Jordan Zimmermann will start those two games for Detroit. The Tigers may turn back to Verlander after Fulmer’s Friday start against the Red Sox, but Detroit will need a fifth starter as early as Sunday, April 9. Matt Boyd and Anibal Sanchez are currently battling for that final rotation role, with veteran Mike Pelfrey lagging behind.
Considering the Tigers may want to break up Verlander and Fulmer in the rotation, they will probably give Verlander an extra day’s rest following his Opening Day start, and slot the fifth starter in on Saturday, April 8. If so, this is how the rotation could look to open the season
April 3: Verlander
April 4: Off
April 5: Norris/Zimmermann
April 6: Norris/Zimmerman
April 7: Fulmer
April 8: Sanchez/Boyd
April 9: Verlander
The Tigers’ next day off is not until Monday, April 17, prior to a trip to Tampa to face the Rays.
In Fulmer's award winning rookie season, he compiled a record of 11-7, a 3.06 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, and a 3.79 FIP. He totaled 132 strike outs over 159 innings of work. While a late surge from catcher Gary Sanchez of the New York Yankees made for an exciting debate during award season, Fulmer walked away with 26 of 30 first-place votes in the AL Rookie of the Year voting. Expectations are high to see what he can deliver this season, and Tigers fans can get their first glimpse of Fulmer on April 7.