Detroit Tigers' Michael Fulmer sheds knee brace, sees progress
LAKELAND, Fla. — Searching for his lost power and velocity, Detroit Tigers pitcher Michael Fulmer threw a bullpen on Friday morning without his knee brace, saying it was “definitely a step in the right direction.”
“Everything felt good,” Fulmer said. “I’m trying to wean off the knee brace.”
The Tigers announced on Thursday that Fulmer has been shut down indefinitely. It seems unlikely that he will be ready on Opening Day.
"He took a step back to refine his lower-body mechanics," manager Ron Gardenhire said, reading a prepared statement from a legal pad.
Fulmer believes part of the problem has been the knee brace he has been wearing after having surgery in September on his right knee.
“My last start, I was trying to overthrow,” Fulmer said. “That’s what I told Gardy. I feel like I’m using all arm out there. Even though my stuff was pretty good, from my perspective, the velocity is not there. It hasn’t gone away. It’s still in there. We just got to find a way to get back to where we were before.”
Fulmer generates most of his velocity from the power in his legs.
While wearing the knee brace, he said that he started popping up off the mound, instead of gliding toward home plate, losing the power from his legs.
But he wore only a knee compression sleeve on Friday in a bullpen session, which allowed him to get more power.
“I’ve already seen progress,” he said. “It felt great. I felt a lot more range of motion, being able to sink down in my legs and actually push off going toward home plate.”
Right now, it is unclear when Fulmer will be ready to start the season.
He said that he will continue to throw bullpens to improve his mechanics before he returns to game action.
“We gotta wind back down and start from the ground up, as far as mechanics wise,” Fulmer said.
In addition, Fulmer said he is working in the weight room to improve his explosiveness.
“That’s the biggest thing I’m trying to accomplish right now," Fulmer said. "I’m doing stuff in the weight room, stuff on the field, trying to get those fast-twitch fibers, that explosiveness back. For this being my first bullpen after the weight room, I felt really good.”
He said that he has not experienced any other complications and the swelling in his knee is going down.
“We take measurements on it every day,” Fulmer said. “It’s actually gone down the last few days, which is surprising.”
Fulmer said there was no radar gun at the bullpen, which is partly the point.
“I think it’s better for us to work on it in bullpens than go into a game and try to over throw and try to see my velocity back," Fulmer said.
Last Saturday, Fulmer’s velocity sat between 88-92 mph, according to a talent elevator who spoke to the Free Press.
Fulmer threw only 44 pitches, allowing two runs on four hits in three innings, walking one batter and striking out three.
Which was concerning and prompted this change of direction.
“It’s kind of precautionary reasons," Fulmer said. 'I don’t want to go out there, especially with me getting one or two starts left, I don’t want to go out there and blow something else out, because this isn’t as explosive as I could be. I don’t know how long this is going to take. But I’m going to make sure I feel good about this before going into game action.”
Of course, there is another side to this.
The mental stress.
“Frustration is a big part of it," he said. "With frustration comes joy and success. You gotta grind through these tough times.”
Contact Jeff Seidel: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel/.