Tigers' Fulmer slated for three more starts

Club keeping close tabs on rookie's innings total; Zimmermann to throw sim game Wednesday

Tigers' Fulmer slated for three more starts

DETROIT -- The plan for skipping Michael Fulmer for a turn through the Tigers' rotation might be on hold now that Jordan Zimmermann's rotation spot is very much in question. 

Manager Brad Ausmus told MLB Network Radio before Tuesday's 8-1 loss to the Twins that Fulmer, whose innings have been watched closely as he soars past his previous high as a pro, is scheduled to make three more starts before the regular season ends, beginning with this weekend's series at Cleveland. 

Fulmer and Justin Verlander will start two of the three games against the Indians, Ausmus announced last weekend, though the manager hasn't announced which games. With 13 games remaining after that series, Fulmer could have conceivably been lined up for an extra start, but only if he pitches early in the Cleveland series. 

Fulmer sits down Hosmer

More likely, Fulmer will get two chances at the Indians -- this weekend in Cleveland, then the final week of the regular season at Comerica Park -- with another start in between against the Twins or Royals. The Tigers can maneuver it to give him extra rest between starts, and potentially put him in line for the American League Wild Card game or tiebreaker. 

Fulmer will enter his next start with 159 innings between Detroit and Triple-A Toledo. He pitched 124 2/3 innings last year between the Mets' and Tigers' farm systems. That represents a 28 percent increase year after year. Ausmus referenced a traditional train of thought early this summer that most pitchers are held around a 25-30 percent increase from one season to another on their way to the big leagues, but Fulmer's ability to rack up innings with a relatively low pitch count led team officials to broaden their criteria beyond innings. 

If Fulmer averages six innings a start in his remaining three outings, he'd finish around 177 innings. For comparison's sake, Rick Porcello finished with 170 2/3 innings in his rookie season with the Tigers in 2009 after jumping from Class A ball, and Verlander pitched 186 innings on his way to AL Rookie of the Year honors in 2006.

Zimmermann, meanwhile, is scheduled to throw an 80-pitch simulated game Wednesday in an effort to sharpen his mechanics after giving up six runs over an inning-plus Saturday. The Tigers have not indicated what the next step would be with the veteran right-hander.

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.