A little over 15 months since his last start in any kind of game, Detroit Tigers’ right-hander Michael Fulmer took the mound on Wednesday in intrasquad action. While it was a small step up from live batting practice, it certainly represented a real milestone in the former Rookie of the Year’s return from 2019’s UCL surgery.
Fulmer’s trimmed down physique looked lean and mean through two innings of work. Adjustments in his mechanics meant to take some of the lower body stress out of his delivery were apparent, but the motion was still very recognizably Fulmer’s. He broke off a few nice sliders, threw strikes, and 25 pitches later he was through two frames with one strikeout and an unearned run allowed.
We haven’t gotten velocity readings thus far, but Fulmer’s fastball looked pretty lively and his command was solid as well. A slightly shorter stride, and the fact that velocity readings haven’t been discussed publicly, probably means he’s not back to full power, but that’s to be expected as he returns and starts building himself up to start every five days. For now, it’s just great to see him back on the mound and loving it.
Nicknamed “Team Cabrera” and “Team Maybin” by the voice of Tigers’ radio, Dan Dickerson, who called the game via livestream, the two Tigers’ squads kicked their summer camp scrimmages into high gear even as other teams struggle to get their camp going in the wake of delayed COVID-19 tests. Play only lasted through four innings as lightning in the area shut things down in the fifth, but there were some interesting notes.
JaCoby Jones flew out to right on Fulmer’s first pitch of the game, but later smoked a Tyler Alexander breaking ball for a home run.
Rule 5 selection Rony Garcia, who got a little attention for his low, short-arm delivery and occasionally dynamic stuff in the spring, looked quite good in two innings of work for the Fighting Maybins. When his cutter and breaking ball are dancing, he certainly looks like a pitcher the Tigers will make sure to keep around. He was expected to be used in relief, so it was interesting to see him get the start, if only for two innings.
And finally, Derek Hill did a very Derek Hill thing on a line drive ripped deep into centerfield off the bat of Jeimer Candelario. Running back on a low screamer that was tailing back over his head, Hill got glove on the ball as he dove to the ground. However, the ball popped up and he bobbled it before snatching it up bare-handed just before it hit the ground.
The initial jump wasn’t perfect, but on a liner like that there’s little time to read anything at contact other than the velocity. Hill’s athleticism allowed him to adjust mid-flight. A little good fortune at the end allowed him to haul it in. Followers of the Tigers’ minor league system have seen that show plenty of times. Hopefully the new player development staff have some new ideas to unlock his bat and make him a viable role player going forward.