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Fulmer ready to return to rotation on Monday

Associated Press • Aug 11, 2017 at 11:41 PM

DETROIT — Tigers starter Michael Fulmer had thrown 20 pitches in his bullpen session before Friday's game against the Minnesota Twins when the rains came.

Although he got drenched on his run back to the clubhouse, he knew he was good to go.

"It was about seven or eight pitches less than I usually throw (in a bullpen) but I threw everything, every pitch," he said. "We got everything in that we needed to get in."

And the verdict?

"I didn't feel anything," he said. "So it's good."

Fulmer was placed on the disabled list with a right ulnar neuritis — inflammation around his ulnar nerve in his elbow which was causing him to lose feeling in the ring finger and pinky on his right hand.

Manager Brad Ausmus said, barring any unforeseen setbacks, Fulmer will likely pitch Monday in Texas. Justin Verlander would be pushed back one day and start on Tuesday.

"All I can tell (Ausmus) is I'm healthy enough to pitch," Fulmer said. "I am ready to get back out there. I am always itching to get back out there. And as long as I am 100 percent good to go, that's what I will tell him."

There is still some concern that the inflammation will come back.

"I think it's probably going to come back," Ausmus said. "It's been happening for two years."

The Tigers haven't publicly discussed what options would come into play if the symptoms recurred, but surgery to move the nerve off the elbow would seem to be one of them.

"Does it?" Ausmus said. "I'm not trying to be short, but does it require surgery? If he can pitch with it and it doesn't affect his pitching, do they have to do anything with it? I don't have the answer to that.

"But he's been pitching with it for two years. He was the Rookie of the Year with it. It's going to be tough to convince a guy that, hey we don't know if it's going to get worse but we're going to go in with a knife."

Ausmus said, to this point, there is nothing to indicate long-term risk.

"Maybe it's just one of those things he can deal with," he said. "Maybe for the rest of his career."

Fulmer was asked if it would still be in the back of his mind when he takes the mound Monday.

"No, because it didn't affect my stuff in my last start," he said. "I won't know until I get out there and I know I can let it eat with my fastball, my slider and change-up. We will see how it goes, but like Brad said, we won't know anything until I go out and throw 100 percent."

Failure to launch

Daniel Norris threw two innings of a simulated game at Toledo against Mud Hens hitters Friday.

If he comes out of that with no complications (he's on the disabled list with quad and groin strains), he will likely resume his rehab assignment with the Mud Hens.

"He's probably going to need three rehab outings at least," Ausmus said. "We will just have to wait and see how he comes through this. He will certainly have to go on rehab assignment before he pitches here again — though they are running out of time down there."

Norris could make three starts for the Mud Hens and rejoin the Tigers by September. He does have time to salvage something from this season, which has otherwise been a second straight failure-to-launch year for the talented left-hander.

"Being able to have a healthy month would be good for him, no question," Ausmus said. "Otherwise it would probably be a situation where in spring training he'd have to prove himself to some degree again. Especially if he doesn't get any sizeable innings to finish off 2017."

Around the horn

Most likely, Drew VerHagen will be sent back to Toledo when Fulmer is activated before the game in Texas Monday night. It could be that he returns to the Mud Hens' bullpen instead of their rotation. Ausmus made it clear that his future at the big-league level will be as a reliever.

... The Tigers could send VerHagen out Friday or Saturday, since he won't be available to pitch for a couple of days and bring a fresh arm up. But there weren't any immediate plans to do that.

... The Twins came into the series trailing Cleveland by 3 1/2 games in the Central Division and a mere half-game out of a wild-card spot. Yet, they continue to be vexed by the Tigers. They are 3-6 against them this season. Over the last 33 games between the teams, the Tigers are 24-9, the .727 winning percentage third-best in the major leagues between division opponents. The Tigers have a plus-43 run differential in those games.

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