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'Mild-mannered' Fulmer setting high standard

Steady starter carries shutout into ninth, earns win over Royals
MLB.com

DETROIT -- When the Royals, down to their last out, finally cracked Michael Fulmer, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus walked out to the mound to retrieve his starter. Seeing Ausmus, Fulmer wasn't angry or combative that his chance at a complete game was lost. Instead, he was apologetic.

"I didn't want to have him use anyone from the bullpen," Fulmer said. "[Ausmus] kind of looked at me and said, 'Don't apologize for anything. You had a great game.'"

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DETROIT -- When the Royals, down to their last out, finally cracked Michael Fulmer, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus walked out to the mound to retrieve his starter. Seeing Ausmus, Fulmer wasn't angry or combative that his chance at a complete game was lost. Instead, he was apologetic.

"I didn't want to have him use anyone from the bullpen," Fulmer said. "[Ausmus] kind of looked at me and said, 'Don't apologize for anything. You had a great game.'"

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What was nearly a sub-100-pitch shutout for Fulmer turned into a three-run, 8 2/3-inning win as the Tigers beat the Royals, 7-3, on Thursday afternoon. The humble, easygoing personality Fulmer had on display in the ninth is part of what makes him unique as he continues a strong sophomore campaign.

"He's very mild-mannered," Ausmus said of the reigning American League Rookie of the Year Award winner. "He doesn't get rattled by the game. In fact, he's one of the few pitchers that'll even joke around in the dugout in one of his starts a little bit here and there. You'll see him crack a smile or joke. You don't see that very often."

There were plenty of reasons to smile as Fulmer rifled through the Royals' order three times. In eight innings, he faced one batter above the minimum, holding Kansas City to four hits on 84 pitches and wiping out three runners on double plays. No batter reached second base, and only one worked Fulmer to a three-ball count.

The ninth started out much the same, as he quickly retired the bottom two hitters on four pitches and the crowd rose to its feet in anticipation of a clean, satisfying finish. Instead, Ramon Torres and Jorge Bonifacio each singled and then scored on Drew Butera's double to end the shutout.

Video: KC@DET: Butera opens scoring for Royals with double

After a mound visit, Fulmer got Eric Hosmer to hit a fly ball to left, but Justin Upton lost it in the lights and it deflected off his glove to score another run. At that point, Ausmus went out to get Fulmer and put the game in the hands of closer Justin Wilson, who finished it with a strikeout.

"Trust me, I want to see Michael Fulmer go nine innings, too," Ausmus said. "But I also don't want to give the other team any hope, and I just felt like the momentum was shifting."

The fans booed Ausmus as he made the move, then cheered as Fulmer walked to the dugout. Asked about the boos, Fulmer laughed and said, "It's passion." He added that he didn't blame Ausmus for taking him out.

Video: KC@DET: Ausmus on Fulmer's lights-out performance

Just one day after Daniel Norris, another promising young Tigers starter, struggled in his shortest outing of the year, Ausmus said he his expectations for Fulmer's development differ from other young pitchers.

"You don't see many people come around like him and have instant success," Ausmus said. "Sometimes you get a rookie flash in the pan, but he's kind of maintained. Unfortunately for him, we're kind of expecting it now."

Jordan Horrobin is a reporter for MLB.com based in Detroit.

Detroit Tigers, Michael Fulmer