CHICAGO -- The words "picked No. 8 overall in the 2015 Draft" frequently seem to follow the name of White Sox hurler Carson Fulmer.For positive reasons, because the right-hander was dominant and talented enough at Vanderbilt to earn such a lofty selection and a $3.47 million signing bonus. Unfortunately, also
CHICAGO -- The words "picked No. 8 overall in the 2015 Draft" frequently seem to follow the name of White Sox hurler Carson Fulmer.
For positive reasons, because the right-hander was dominant and talented enough at Vanderbilt to earn such a lofty selection and a $3.47 million signing bonus. Unfortunately, also for negative reasons, as Fulmer has not lived up to the first-round hoopla with a 6.68 ERA over 24 appearances (13 starts) in the Majors.
Don't feel sorry for the good-natured but driven Fulmer, as he seemingly hasn't lost an ounce of confidence. He may be down through the first three seasons of his Major League career, but Fulmer doesn't feel close to being out.
"People will have their own opinions. I have my own opinion and I have to stick to it," Fulmer told MLB.com from his offseason home in Seattle. "We have a great fan base, very supportive fan base that wants to win, and I get it. We have to go out there and put up quality starts and get guys out from a bullpen perspective. It drives me as well.
"I pitched really well in college to be able to get the opportunity, but I don't want to just be a first-round pick. I want to be a 10-plus-year veteran pitcher in the big leagues. I won't stop until that happens.
"Everybody has a little bump in their career. That was the bump for me. I think it's straight uphill from now."
Fulmer, 25, looked as if he had navigated that bump in 2017 by posting a 1.64 ERA over six September appearances (four starts). That great finish was followed by a miserable spring in Arizona, where Fulmer allowed 31 baserunners in 10 2/3 innings, and those struggles continued as part of the '18 rotation, with Fulmer allowing 29 earned runs over 32 1/3 innings in spite of seven shutout frames thrown in Kanas City on April 28.
His 2018 big league run came to an end on May 18 after allowing eight runs on three hits and five walks in two innings vs. the Rangers at home. In the postgame scrum, already knowing he was returning to Triple-A Charlotte, Fulmer looked more defiant and annoyed than forlorn and defeated.
"More than anything it was the fact that I was given such a great opportunity and I was inconsistent throughout that opportunity," Fulmer said. "The White Sox have given me every chance I possibly could have. I still have the chance to do what I need to do, and it just took a little bit of time to figure out what exactly works for me."
"He has to go back to simply getting people out," White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper said. "It hasn't happened. But Carson is feeling good. He's in great shape."
Although Fulmer would have liked to join the White Sox in September after showing improvement working in relief for Charlotte, he got in the weight room the day after his season ended. He's lost a good amount of weight and worked all offseason at Driveline Baseball in Seattle, seeing tremendous jumps in all his stuff when it comes to spin rate and velocity.
"I've been through live hitters three times already, and my stuff has jumped tremendously in each of those outings," Fulmer said. "My endurance shape is the best it's been.
"I'm definitely ready for Spring Training and the opportunity to face some of those hitters as well. I've worked the hardest this offseason I ever have."
Pure stuff never has been an issue for Fulmer -- he believes it plays at the highest level. With a set routine in place somewhat akin to what he followed at Vanderbilt, Fulmer hopes results match that stuff either as a big league starter or in relief.
"That lack of consistency really was not even mental or physical," Fulmer said. "It was the fact that I wanted to try new things. Even shutting out the Kansas City Royals, I felt like I needed to do something else.
"This is my time to go. I still have a great opportunity to make the team out of spring, and I am definitely going to be ready to compete and get the job done."
Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.