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Fulmer takes Opening Day decision in stride

Righty, after hearing Tigers chose Zimmermann for starting honors: 'I'm just thankful that everybody's healthy'
MLB.com @beckjason

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Yes, Michael Fulmer wanted the honor of starting for the Tigers on Opening Day.

"Obviously to say that I didn't want to start Opening Day would be a lie," Fulmer said Sunday morning. "Obviously it's everybody's dream."

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Yes, Michael Fulmer wanted the honor of starting for the Tigers on Opening Day.

"Obviously to say that I didn't want to start Opening Day would be a lie," Fulmer said Sunday morning. "Obviously it's everybody's dream."

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At the same time, Fulmer knew early in camp that he and Jordan Zimmermann were lined up to potentially get the assignment. Pitching coach Chris Bosio made that clear, Fulmer said, when he announced the rotation order for Spring Training. Bosio also made it clear that Fulmer's health coming off surgery would be a factor.

"[Bosio] was just saying that it was all about how I felt coming off of surgery in the offseason, stuff like that, and everything has been going great," Fulmer said. "I'm just thankful that everybody's healthy. What we need on our pitching staff is for everybody to be healthy and get Zim back to normal. He's been looking good this spring, so hopefully he can take that into the season."

So the news Saturday that Zimmermann will start the Tigers' season opener at Comerica Park on March 29, while a stunner for nearly everybody, didn't totally floor Fulmer after he missed a turn in the rotation with muscular soreness in his elbow. While Fulmer said he's on track to be ready when the season begins, he also understood that didn't guarantee manager Ron Gardenhire would turn to him for Opening Day.

Video: DET@NYY: Zimmermann K's four in strong start

"Obviously it was Gardy's decision, and I support it 100 percent," Fulmer said. "We're excited that [Zimmermann]'s going to start us off right and lead us out on Opening Day. ... He absolutely deserved it. We're happy that Zim can lead us, being the veteran that he is. We know that he can do it. We're just ready to go, to say the least."

Fulmer started the Tigers' home opener last year after Justin Verlander started on Opening Day in Chicago. If healthy, it was widely assumed he would succeed Verlander as the Opening Day starter this year, especially once the Tigers kept him on turn following the elbow soreness.

Fulmer threw four innings and 59 pitches in his last start, a Minor League game on the back fields at Tigertown on Wednesday. In the end, Bosio said, Fulmer's health was not the determining factor.

"It had nothing to do with Mike not being there," Bosio said. "Mike could've very easily been the guy, but Gardy and I collectively thought Jordan was the guy because of the experience and the way that he's thrown the ball.

"We got two guys that could've started Opening Day, but it's the first game of the year. Then after that, everyone's a starter. There's no second, there's no third, there's no fourth, no fifth. They're starting pitchers on our club. Jordan's the guy that got the nod, and that's because of the consistency and the way he's thrown the ball, and the experience."

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While Bosio hasn't announced when Fulmer will pitch, he said he expects his starters to stay in their current order. Since Fulmer has been pitching the day after Zimmermann, that would suggest he's in line to pitch the second game of the season, March 31.

Fiers gets tests on back
Mike Fiers' continued struggles led the Tigers to order tests on his sore back, but the results don't suggest a major injury.

"He had a stiff back and we had him checked out by a lot of people," Gardenhire said. "It's nothing too awful; nothing more than they thought. Maybe a little bit of a bulging disc. Nothing that should make him miss a lot of time or anything like that. We have to get him through this. The trainers are going to do their work."

The exam follows a rough start by Fiers on Friday against the Braves, including a 31-pitch first inning. The first inning has been a particular problem for him all spring, possibly a sign that he needs more time to get loose.

Injury updates
Blaine Hardy is scheduled to make his first Grapefruit League appearance of Spring Training on Monday, the first of what he said are three scheduled appearances before camp breaks. Whether that will be enough to get him cleared to begin the season, he's leaving up to Bosio.

Hardy has been slowed this spring by left shoulder inflammation. He said Sunday morning he hasn't felt pain nor soreness since being cleared to throw again. He struggled to keep pitches down when throwing to hitters in batting practice last week but said that was more about adrenaline and rust.

Up next
Fulmer takes the mound for the Tigers on Monday when they host the Orioles in a 1:05 p.m. ET contest at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium. It'll be Fulmer's second meeting with the O's, having faced them to open his Spring Training work three weeks ago. Shane Greene and Buck Farmer are expected to join Hardy in the Tigers' bullpen. The radio broadcast will be available online at MLB Gameday Audio and in Detroit on AM 1270.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

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