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Fulmer set for MRI on knee, rest of '18 in doubt

Jones available off bench after leaving game early Saturday
September 16, 2018

CLEVELAND -- Michael Fulmer will soon learn if he is able to pitch again this season.The club announced the right-hander will get an MRI on his right knee on Monday in Detroit to explore inflammation sustained in the first inning of Saturday's 15-0 loss to the Indians at Progressive Field.

CLEVELAND -- Michael Fulmer will soon learn if he is able to pitch again this season.
The club announced the right-hander will get an MRI on his right knee on Monday in Detroit to explore inflammation sustained in the first inning of Saturday's 15-0 loss to the Indians at Progressive Field. Fulmer started the game, but he threw only five pitches before manager Ron Gardenhire knew something was wrong.
"It's just tough," Fulmer said in the clubhouse ahead of Sunday's season finale with the Tribe.
Fulmer faced two batters and allowed back-to-back home runs to Francisco Lindor and Michael Brantley. Fulmer said he felt the knee flare up trying to field a bunt that went foul on his first pitch of the game to Lindor. After the play, it became clear Fulmer wasn't able to effectively push his back leg off the rubber.
"I don't know if my spike got caught in the dirt near the rubber or what, but I tried to push off to go and get the bunt, and I kind of tweaked it from there," Fulmer said. "I tried to shift my weight back, and it felt like I was in the air for a whole extra second, my knee kind of buckled on me. So I didn't really have any push-off power to my back side."
Gardenhire said it's hard to guess if Fulmer will pitch again in 2018 until they receive the results of the MRI and get medical clearance. Fulmer, 25, missed nearly a whole month with a left oblique strain, which kept him on the disabled list from July 20-Aug. 24.
Ailments aside, Fulmer -- in his third Major League season -- is in the midst of the worst campaign in his professional career, dropping to 3-12 after the loss Saturday, with a 4.69 ERA and career highs in WHIP (1.315), hits per nine innings (8.7), home runs per nine innings (1.3) and walks per nine innings (3.1).
Fulmer debuted with the Tigers in 2016 and won American League Rookie of the Year Award, and he earned his first All-Star nomination the following year.
"It's just been a frustrating year," Fulmer said. "I finally had my last two starts where I felt like we got back to my old mechanics and reading swings off the bat, or reading swings from hitters. I thought we were getting somewhere, and I felt really good about it."
If the MRI bears good news for Fulmer, he would likely only be scheduled to pitch twice more before the end of the season. Though it could be worthwhile to cut his season short, Fulmer felt like he's close to finding his delivery again and thinks he could benefit from trying to stick out those starts.
In his last two starts before Saturday, Fulmer allowed six hits and four runs over 12 innings. If it's up to Fulmer, he'd prefer to fight through and hope for the best.
"I think just from a competitive personal standpoint, I obviously want to do my best and try and make those last two starts," Fulmer said. "I just want to get out there as many times as I can before the season's over for this team. But we'll have to find out."
Jones OK to play
Center fielder JaCoby Jones also exited Saturday's game, leaving in the fifth inning with right shoulder tightness after crashing into the center-field wall trying to track down a Jose Ramirez triple. Jones initially stayed in the game after the play, but he left two batters later after diving for a soft line drive in shallow center.

Jones was out of the starting lineup Sunday, but Gardenhire said Jones would be available off the bench.
"Really, the wall knocked the wind out of him more than anything else," Gardenhire said. "There's a little bit of soreness."

** Casey Harrison ** is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland.