GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Carson Fulmer's afternoon started out innocently enough. The White Sox right-hander pumped consecutive pitches to Padres center fielder Manuel Margot for strikes. Fulmer's attempt at an 0-2 putaway pitch, however, tailed back over the heart of the plate.
Margot didn't miss, cranking Fulmer's third pitch of the day into left field and onto the grassy lawn seating at Camelback Ranch. The White Sox No. 10 prospect allowed three more runs, struggling to put away the pesky San Diego hitters in a 7-6 Chicago loss on Sunday.
"I'm able to throw pitches early on in the count where I want them to," Fulmer said. "Today, I got a lot of swings and misses early on in the count. I tried to speed up too quick, I guess, and make the best pitch I possibly can, and the ball's running back over the middle of the plate."
In seven appearances (five starts) last season, Fulmer put together a strong case to be a part of Chicago's Opening Day rotation in 2018, posting a 3.86 ERA and striking out nearly a batter per inning. Sunday, however, showed that Fulmer's success is still a work in progress, as he faced just 11 batters, walking four and allowing four runs on four hits in one-plus inning.
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Fulmer struggled for his second consecutive spring start, finding himself unable to put away batters with two strikes and allowing them to draw out counts and make sharp contact on pitches over the heart of the plate. He'd throw first-pitch strikes to seven of the first eight batters he faced, and got to two-strike counts on three of the four batters he walked, but couldn't manage to get the putaway pitch outside of one that caught Padres catcher A.J. Ellis looking to end the first inning.
Much like against Margot, Fulmer just couldn't convert the two-strike count into outs. "It's really frustrating," Fulmer said. "Just like the last outing, I got ahead of a lot of guys, either 0-2 or 1-2, and I just wasn't able to put them away. I fell back behind in counts, left balls over the middle of the plate. It's easy to say to let this one go and get ready for the next one, but it's tough. It's tough, especially in the position that I am, and to be in a position to make an impact on this team, I have to put away guys. I have to use this outing and build off of it as much as I can and then get ready for the next one."
Fulmer is expected to contend for the last spot in Chicago's rotation, though his toughest competition at the moment may be the man who replaced him on Sunday: left-hander Hector Santiago, who is in the midst of his second stint with the team and on a Minor League deal as a non-roster invitee.
Santiago assumed the mound after Fulmer allowed the first two men to reach in the second inning, getting out of the jam on a Hunter Renfroe bases-loaded popout with two outs before tossing another pair of scoreless innings. Santiago exited after a leadoff double in the fifth by Franchy Cordero, who would come around to score, charging the lefty with his first run allowed in his eighth Spring Training inning.
Even though the results may not have an immediate effect on Fulmer's future, he said he knows what needs to change.
"I'm a competitive pitcher," Fulmer said. "I want to go out there and give up no runs and no hits. The competitive side of me, I get really frustrated. I was able to throw early strikes in the count, and that's what you want to do as a pitcher, get ahead of a lot of guys. I was able to do that. It's just being able to keep those things simple and make your third pitch or fourth pitch to get the out."