LAKELAND, Fla. -- Michael Fulmer heads out with pitchers in the morning to play catch on the back fields at Tigertown. He’ll rear back and pop the glove of bullpen catcher and throwing partner Tim Remes. And for a brief stretch, Fulmer is like any other pitcher on the Tigers' roster.
It’s about the only time he gets to feel that way.
Just less than a year removed from Tommy John surgery, Fulmer is a ways off for throwing off a mound. He’s also coming back from right knee surgery, which pretty much rules him out from fielding drills.
For now, he’s still rehabbing, which makes this an awkward Spring Training for him. Playing catch is part of his long-tossing program as he stretches his throwing sessions out to 120 feet. But he’s handling it as best he can.
“He handles it very, very well,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “I’m sure he’s very, very frustrated. He wants to be out there doing all those things with all the guys. But through all this, he’s probably learned a little bit of patience, knowing when you try to rush it, it doesn’t really work out too well if you’re not really ready for things.
“Patience, I think that’s what he has to have right now. He knows he has a long road to go to get back out on the mound, but you know what? He’s been there and done it now, and he knows if you push it too hard, it’s not going to work out. So he has to let the smart guys -- the medical people -- get him to where he’s supposed to be. And then we’ll see where he is halfway through the year.”
Fulmer remains on a timeline to return sometime around midseason, likely in July, but it’s a tentative schedule that can change depending on how his arm feels or performs at different stages of rehab.
Fulmer is looking on the bright side. After spending last summer and this offseason rehabbing in Tigertown -- sometimes with teammates like Franklin Perez, other times on his own -- he gets to hang with teammates for the next several weeks before the team heads north. When Grapefruit League play begins next week, Fulmer will be able to watch games in person rather than on television.
“I’ll be hanging out in the bullpen,” he joked.
Reyes has a role in Tigers' outfield
“Where he’s going to play, how much he’s going to play, is going to depend on how we go forward and what we end up leaving spring with. But [Reyes] is definitely one of our guys,” Gardenhire said. “I think he earned that and did what he had to do.”
Reyes was the only Tigers position player to bat .300 or better last year, finishing with a .304 average and a .767 OPS. He was an everyday player for the second half of the season, mainly in center after JaCoby Jones’ season-ending injury, but also in the corners.
“Now, he needs to come in and perform again,” Gardenhire said. “He’s still a young player, and we’ve put an awful lot on him in the two years we’ve had him. But he responded, and that’s what you want to see. And I think he’ll respond again. He’ll find a way to be on this ball club when we go north, and whatever role it’s going to be, we’ll figure that out as we go through Spring Training.”
• The Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens announced they will extend protective netting down both foul lines at Fifth Third Field and raise the height of existing netting behind home plate. The new netting will run down each line to the foul poles, including all seating areas from sections 101 to 119 and 201 to 219. The goal is to have the changes ready for the Mud Hens’ home opener April 16.
• After Gardenhire poked fun at Matthew Boyd’s bright white Nike training shoes, Boyd presented him with a pair, which he wore for Friday’s workout. "Ultimately, they're not really baseball shoes," Gardenhire said. "They're going to be my new golf shoes. They're really comfortable. And Matty is a big shooter now, so he can do those kinds of things."