Verlander excited for protege Fulmer's debut

Veteran took Tigers' prized prospect under his wing this spring

Verlander excited for protege Fulmer's debut

DETROIT -- Justin Verlander watched and mentored some of the Tigers' young pitchers during Spring Training. One of them was top-ranked prospect Michael Fulmer, who came over in the Yoenis Cespedes trade last July.

Verlander had his own pitching to worry about when news emerged that Fulmer will be called up to make his Major League debut Friday night at Minnesota. But when Verlander learned of the news, he couldn't have been much happier.

"Very excited," Verlander said. "I told him when he got sent down, 'I really enjoyed watching you pitch. Stay positive.' I know he was kind of battling for that fifth spot [in the starting rotation] in the spring.

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"I love his mentality on the mound. He's not scared, and I love his stuff. He pitches, attacks guys, and I think he's got a chance to be an excellent pitcher at the big league level."

Verlander can relate to Fulmer's entrance, and not just the expectations of being a highly-touted prospect. Like Fulmer, Verlander made his big league debut in a spot-start situation, pitching one end of a doubleheader on July 4, 2005. Also like Fulmer, Verlander debuted on the road, pitching in Cleveland.

That said, Verlander doesn't think starting on the road, away from the anticipation and buzz of home fans, makes it any easier.

"I don't think it's easy one way or the other," Verlander said. "You're going to have the same amount of energy or angst, whatever it may be. I guess the one positive is that on the road, hopefully we can go out and get him a few runs early before he even takes the mound. That kind of takes a lot of the pressure off."

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.