CHICAGO -- Carson Fulmer did not have the easiest Major League indoctrination during the 2016 season, posting an 8.49 ERA over eight White Sox relief appearances.
Some thought that the team's top pick and eighth selection overall in the 2015 MLB Draft was rushed a bit as the organization's No. 1 prospect. Some guessed pitching in relief left Fulmer out of his element after being a starter for most of his adult pitching life.
But five months after that stint, with a broad smile on his face at SoxFest, the 23-year-old's confidence only has grown.
"Confidence will never go away," said Fulmer, the White Sox No. 5 prospect and MLBPipeline.com's No. 71 prospect overall. "Baseball is a game where you really have to learn about the game and you have to learn about yourself. Last year, I had a ton of success and a ton of failure. In everybody's career, they hit that point at some time.
"When I went down to Triple-A, I was with Richard Dotson, our pitching coach there, and tweaked a couple of things. I really figured out what made me comfortable and really helped settle me.
"That was what I needed in my career. That's what I needed to push through," Fulmer added. "From now on, I'm going to be given an opportunity to impact this ballclub as an important player. I'm way farther than what I thought I was going to be at this point. I'm definitely ready to go."
Dotson, who now serves as the White Sox Minor League pitching coordinator, pointed out Fulmer's tendency of being flat. Fulmer doesn't have a great deal of size at 6 feet tall, and has tried to create as much angle as possible. Dotson instructed the right-hander to stay tall and drive down to the bottom part of the zone.
Over his past three starts for Charlotte, with the changes in place, Fulmer yielded one run on nine hits in 15 innings while fanning 14 and walking three.
"It clicked," Fulmer said. "After the first pitch I threw, I knew that was what I needed to do."
"He went down in the last three starts and the best way for me to describe it was he got more conventional," White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper said. "The anxiety, the anxiousness, him wanting to do more, not only at the big league level but at Double-A to justify 'I'm No. 1,' that stuff is there. That is kind of what happened. It didn't go the way anyone wanted, but he's far from being horrible. He's where he's at in this process."
This process will have Fulmer working as a starter in Spring Training and probably continuing that process as part of Charlotte's rotation. But Fulmer figures to be with the White Sox at some point in '17 and is confident he can be an integral part at the core of this ongoing rebuild.
"If his confidence is down, he's not the guy we thought he was," Cooper said. "I don't think that's the case."
"I want to be in the big leagues as a starter," Fulmer said. "Absolutely. That's what I was drafted to be. I have a lot of criticism. I have a lot of people that don't think that. But I feel like I'm definitely ready."