DETROIT -- Michael Fulmer could spend a second consecutive offseason recuperating from surgery. The Tigers right-hander will visit renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday for a second opinion on the damaged meniscus in his right knee.If Andrews confirms the initial diagnosis of a meniscus tear, he'll conduct surgery
DETROIT -- Michael Fulmer could spend a second consecutive offseason recuperating from surgery. The Tigers right-hander will visit renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday for a second opinion on the damaged meniscus in his right knee.
If Andrews confirms the initial diagnosis of a meniscus tear, he'll conduct surgery on Fulmer on Thursday. How much rehab Fulmer will face depends on the degree of the tear to his meniscus.
A full meniscus repair can require three months of recovery. A partial repair, which can be as simple as clipping the torn part, has a shorter timetable in weeks rather than months. Most younger athletes go with the full repair, since their knees can heal quicker and easier than older athletes.
"Our plan is to have him pitching in Spring Training," manager Ron Gardenhire said Tuesday. "If we have to adjust, we have to adjust."
The Tigers have been through this process with position players over the years, notably Victor Martinez, but relatively little with pitchers. Fulmer is an exception, having missed the first three months of the 2013 season with a right meniscus tear when he was a Mets prospect. Since he actually had the surgery in mid-March of that year, his recovery time was closer to four months.
Fulmer tore the meniscus again late that season and underwent another surgery in September, but he was ready for the 2014 season.
A meniscus tear affects a pitcher differently than a hitter. For a right-handed pitcher, the right knee is crucial for pushing off the rubber in his delivery. Fulmer pushes off with the side of his foot, rather than straight ahead, which can put extra strain on the outside of the knee. That would explain some of his difficulties pitching in his last outing Saturday in Cleveland and why Detroit pulled him after just two batters, both of whom hit home runs.
Fulmer tweaked his knee on the first pitch last Saturday, when Indians leadoff hitter Francisco Lindor laid down a bunt. He missed just over a month earlier this summer with a left oblique strain. But Fulmer's arm has been fine after undergoing surgery a year ago to move the ulnar nerve in his right elbow to alleviate the numbness issues that had been bothering him all season.
Fulmer spent much of last offseason at the Tigers' Spring Training complex in Lakeland, Fla., working out in the team's new weight room in order to get ready. A knee surgery could lead him to similar plans this offseason.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.