He hasn’t worked as consistently as a reliever as he might as a starting pitcher. But the White Sox think Carson Fulmer has received experience invaluable to whatever role they use him in the future.
Fulmer pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings in Sunday’s loss, which brings him to a total of 8 2/3 frames since he was promoted last month. The club thinks the combination of figuring out how to stay sharp with irregular work as well as getting outs in the big leagues will have Fulmer better prepared for next season. Fulmer has a 9.35 ERA in seven games with six walks and seven strikeouts.
“That’s a guy you want to master the one inning first before you can sit there and think he can give you seven or eight,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “It’s a time to learn, to gain some experience while you’re up here and the guys that you’re facing and what you need to do to survive up here. I think that’s just as important as being stretched out. He can get valuable experience an inning at a time.”
Scouts are often divided on whether Fulmer’s future is in the rotation or in the bullpen. Fulmer has said he’s fine with either and isn’t concerned about making the transition to a relief role after spending all of college as a starting pitcher. He throws with enough frequency on his own to think his arm is capable of recovering from daily use.
But for now, Fulmer’s biggest transition is staying sharp despite infrequent use. He has pitched seven times in 24 days and faced a total of 41 batters. Were he to have remained in the minors, Fulmer likely would have made five starts and faced roughly 125 batters. As the White Sox see it, the trade off is the cost of major league experience.
“He does benefit from facing big league hitters,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “He does benefit from working with (Don Cooper and Bobby Thigpen) on the side up here and all the extras we have here to help him improve and understand the areas he needs to get better. At the same time, he obviously is not getting regular work and you want a player like that to not miss out on an element of the development that comes with regular work. So it is a bit of a balancing act.”
It’s an act to which Fulmer is still acclimating.
Fulmer’s appearance Sunday was his first in five days. Though the best advice he has received is to only “throw when you need to,” idle periods call for work to stay sharp. Therefore, Fulmer hasn’t hesitated to head to the bullpen for a work session with Cooper and Thigpen. He realizes it’s all part of getting accustomed to a role with which he has grown increasingly relaxed.
“I feel like more than anything it’s just that you have to be comfortable,” Fulmer said. “Obviously I’m not really comfortable with the role that I’m in because I haven’t done it very much. But the more reps I get, the more comfortable I’m going to get, and I’m definitely feeling that now.
“I love it. I haven’t really done it that much, but I like that situation.”