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Despite loss, Fulmer 'felt good' in return

MLB.com @beckjason

ARLINGTON -- The last time Michael Fulmer pitched at Globe Life Park, he tossed his first complete game -- a four-hit shutout -- a game that in many ways was the defining highlight of his Rookie of the Year campaign. He took the mound again here on Monday on the one-year anniversary of that gem.

He wasn't looking for nine innings this time as much as some effective ones after ulnar neuritis forced him to skip a turn and make a stint on the disabled list. He fell short, lasting five innings and 75 pitches in a 6-2 Tigers loss, but he insisted it wasn't because of any recurrence.

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ARLINGTON -- The last time Michael Fulmer pitched at Globe Life Park, he tossed his first complete game -- a four-hit shutout -- a game that in many ways was the defining highlight of his Rookie of the Year campaign. He took the mound again here on Monday on the one-year anniversary of that gem.

He wasn't looking for nine innings this time as much as some effective ones after ulnar neuritis forced him to skip a turn and make a stint on the disabled list. He fell short, lasting five innings and 75 pitches in a 6-2 Tigers loss, but he insisted it wasn't because of any recurrence.

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"I felt good," Fulmer said. "That's really the only positive I can take out of today."

Fulmer's time on the DL wasn't expected to eliminate an issue he has been pitching through for the past two years. It was more of a break to quiet the issue, the tingling feeling, enough so that he could pitch effectively again.

Fulmer's velocity was as good as usual, with an average fastball velocity around 97 mph, but that was never in question. The issue was going to be command, and with three walks in the first inning, he was battling that from the get-go.

"He looked a little rusty," said bench coach Gene Lamont, who served as manager after Brad Ausmus and Ian Kinsler were ejected in the fifth inning. "He walked three guys in the first inning, and he usually doesn't walk three guys in nine innings."

There wasn't any tingling, Fulmer said, just a continuation of the issues that had affected him in his previous few outings.

"I was just out of sync," Fulmer said. "Especially in that first inning, I was just trying to get too quick a little bit. I kind of got better as the game went on, but still, I felt like every pitch was a ball or right down the middle. They got some hard hits. They got some soft hits. They bunted. They took the extra base. It was one of those days.

"I knew I was going fast. I knew my mechanics were fast, rushing to the plate. First couple pitches, I was maybe overthrowing a little bit, but I took a step back and tried to back off, and that didn't work, either. I knew exactly what I was doing wrong. I just couldn't fix it."

Fulmer threw 27 pitches in the first inning, just 13 for strikes, but limited the damage to two runs (on Justin Upton's homer) when he executed three consecutive sliders on Mike Napoli for an 0-2 count and an inning-ending double play.

Those secondary pitches were more of a barometer of his health.

"Slider was great. Sinker was moving quite a bit. I just couldn't control it quite like I usually do," he said. "Everything was down the middle or for a ball. Just got to take a step and slow down and work on it in between starts."

Fulmer gave up six earned runs for the second consecutive outing, tying a season high, and of his 75 pitches, 47 were strikes.

Lamont said that Fulmer wasn't on a pitch count, they just decided that 75 was enough.

If Fulmer feels healthy in the coming days, he'll get an extra day's rest ahead of his next start, on Sunday against the Dodgers. He'll be working on finding a feel for his pitches, but it won't be about health.

"Ultimately, I'm not worried about it," catcher James McCann said. "I know he's not worried about it. I know it's frustrating for him. He expects perfection every time he takes the mound."

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

Detroit Tigers, Michael Fulmer