Lack of offspeed location hurts Fulmer in latest start

Lack of offspeed location hurts Fulmer in latest start

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Michael Fulmer has his beard ready for the regular season in Detroit. Despite the warm weather for most of the spring in Florida, he has grown out his facial hair for northern climates.

"Absolutely," Fulmer said. "The beard is always ready."

Fulmer's pitch count, meanwhile, is still trying to stretch out to regular-season lengths. His knowledge is still growing.

After an up-and-down outing against the Yankees in Friday's 3-0 loss, in which Fulmer came within a pitch of a bases-loaded walk and escaped but gave up a big inning with seeing-eye doubles, Fulmer looked at the bright side: If nothing else, he stretched out his pitching stamina.

The 24-year-old also learned a little bit about adjustments, and how to use a dugout cooler for productive purposes.

"I don't know if it was breezier today or colder, but I just couldn't grip the ball that well," Fulmer said. "I literally sat down in the dugout and stuck my hand on a water cooler and just tried to moisten up my hand a little bit, just to try to get a little moisture. After that, I felt good."

Fulmer couldn't get a good grip on the ball early, especially with his offspeed pitches, and ended up with a 29-pitch opening inning thanks to two walks and a single. He went to a full count on Chase Headley with no open base before striking him out.

Fulmer K's Sanchez to end 3rd

Fulmer has made a point to focus on fastball command this spring, and he was spotting fastballs at 94-95 mph on Friday. But it was his other offerings that were frustrating him. He didn't spot an offspeed pitch for a strike, he said, until the third inning. For someone who's learning how to read hitters from their swings at his pitches, it gave him little opportunity.

"They spit on every offspeed pitch," Fulmer said. "If they see it out of my hand, they're not swinging at it, and they didn't have to. I just need to learn to basically start off [effectively]. It's just one of those things that I'm still trying to put it all together, just part of spring."

Fulmer left with one out in the fourth inning, having yielded doubles down both lines and one into the left-center gap. He threw 59 pitches, a number that should pick up in each of his final three starts this spring.

So, too, should his comfort with what he's throwing and how he's throwing it.

"He didn't have his command for whatever reason, whether it was the baseball or some other cause," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "He got his pitches in. He's progressing."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.