Fulmer to get extra rest, but no firm innings limit

Tigers looking to get rookie some days off after Friday's start vs. Boston

Fulmer to get extra rest, but no firm innings limit

DETROIT -- While the debate continues over whether and how the Tigers should watch Michael Fulmer's innings, the rookie starter's response is to keep delivering innings worth watching.

"He's making it increasingly difficult to keep his innings down," manager Brad Ausmus said after Fulmer's first career shutout in Sunday's 7-0 road win against the Rangers.

While Fulmer's shutout gave him enough innings to qualify for the American League ERA leaderboard, which he now leads by a half-run over Royals lefty Danny Duffy, it also put Fulmer at 120 innings with Detroit this season. Add in his work at Triple-A Toledo before the callup, and Fulmer is at 135 1/3 innings combined this season. He threw 124 2/3 innings last year.

Fulmer's next turn in the rotation will be on Friday against the Red Sox, whose team president Dave Dombrowski, pulled off the trade to bring Fulmer to Detroit. After that, Fulmer likely will get a longer rest.

"We have an off-day coming up [next] Monday, and there's a pretty good chance we'll do something in terms of moving where he pitches," Ausmus said on Sunday. "[Pitching coach] Rich Dubee will sit down and look at it and map it out.

"We're going to have to do something, push him back, skip him, something, at some point. If he keeps pitching like this, we might have to do it more than once, because we'd like to have him around all the way through."

Fulmer completes shutout

If Fulmer stays on turn, he would pitch a week from Thursday at Minnesota. The Tigers could push him back two days without needing an extra starter, which would put him in line to pitch a week from Saturday against the Angels at Comerica Park. Neither of the Tigers' injured veteran starters, Jordan Zimmermann and Mike Pelfrey, appear likely to be ready by then, unless Pelfrey returns to action with only one rehab start and no setbacks.

Asked on Monday if Fulmer will be pushed back a couple days or skipped, Ausmus said, "He'll get pushed back farther than the others."

The trick with watching Fulmer's innings is that they are coming so easily for him. He's averaging 15.14 pitches per inning, the 13th-lowest average among qualified Major League starters. He averaged 12.4 pitches per inning on Sunday.

"We don't have any concerns with Michael Fulmer," Tigers general manager Al Avila said Tuesday on MLB Network's "High Heat." "We're watching his innings very closely and we're trying to minimize it, we're trying to maybe skip him a start here or push back a start, really, every time we hit an off-day. But right now we feel we'll get through the whole season with Michael Fulmer.

"Right now we feel good with where we're at with him and where we're projecting to end up with him. So I think we'll be fine there. Obviously he's done an excellent job and right now he's one of the premier pitchers in baseball."

Said Fulmer: "All I know is I feel good right now. I can't control the future. I don't know how I'm going to feel in the future. I could feel this good at 200 innings, who knows, but all I can do is control the present and keep pitching every fifth day, and hopefully staying healthy every fifth game."

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.