Regardless, Fulmer is back on a path to be ready for the March 29 opener after three solid innings in Friday's 4-4 tie with the Mets. With a fastball that topped out at 96 mph and a slider that he described as hit-and-miss, Fulmer recovered from a second-inning solo homer to strike out five batters while allowing just the lone run.
It was Fulmer's first outing since his Grapefruit League debut 11 days ago, when he tossed two innings against the Orioles. He was scheduled to pitch last Sunday against the Nationals, but a flare-up of soreness in the back of his right elbow prompted the club to scratch him ahead of time.
The soreness was gone soon after, and Fulmer regards it as a blip. He pitched Friday like he hadn't missed any work at all, stretching out to 51 pitches while ramping up his velocity.
"Honestly, I was kind of shocked they ran me out for the third," Fulmer said. "[Pitching coach Chris] Bosio comes up to me, I'm expecting him to shake my hand and he goes, 'How do you feel?' I said, 'Great, let's do another one.' So I was kind of happy to get through three and almost not miss a beat from the skipped start. I was happy with everything."
The home run came off a mistake slider to Kevin Plawecki, who caught Fulmer for a few starts when Fulmer was an up-and-coming prospect in the Mets' system a few years ago. Fulmer opened the second inning with back-to-back offspeed pitches, and Plawecki deposited the second on to the left-field berm. Five pitches later, Fulmer threw an 0-2 fastball to Jose Lobaton that caught too much of the strike zone, allowing Lobaton to double off the right-field wall.
Fulmer settled down from there to retire his final six batters on three called strikeouts and three ground balls.
"Everything felt great," Fulmer said. "I let it go today, not holding anything back, and it didn't fail me."
Unless something crazy happens, the expectation of Fulmer pitching Opening Day shouldn't fail, either. By pushing Fulmer back five days rather than the two-day break originally floated, the Tigers kept him on a schedule that would have him on turn for March 29, with maybe a day of rest built in.
For now, however, manager Ron Gardenhire said they're waiting on any decision.
"He hasn't been told nothing," Gardenhire said of Fulmer. "I'll talk to Bosio about it eventually when we decide we're ready to do that. Let's just get these guys stretched out and see who's feeling great and we'll figure it out. We have a lot of decisions to make here, and that's not one we're going to make right now."