GLENDALE, Ariz. — Carson Fulmer’s jitters haven’t gone away, but the White Sox 2015 first round pick is starting to feel more comfortable as he works through major league lineups during spring training.
Well, through one major league lineup — both of Fulmer’s Cactus League starts have come against the defending World Series champion Kansas City Royals. He allowed one run on two hits with a walk and two strikeouts Thursday at Camelback Ranch, facing a lineup headlined by Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer and Salvador Perez.
“The butterflies are still there from getting amped up for a start,” Fulmer said. “I felt more comfortable with it. It was my second time facing them and I’m getting a good feel of how the pace of a game goes."
The White Sox, right now, don’t see Fulmer in their 2016 plans, though they certainly aren’t ruling out the Vanderbilt product forcing the issue this summer. He excelled in 23 innings — a small sample size, of course — last year, posting a 1.96 ERA with 26 strikeouts, nine walks and two home runs allowed.
If and when Fulmer does reach the major leagues, his experience in these spring training games could come in handy. Specifically on Thursday, he fell behind Hosmer to lead off the second inning, worked back to a 3-2 count and then walked the Royals first baseman on a fastball in off the plate that he called a “great miss.”
“He has a good eye for pitches like that and let it go,” Fulmer said. “He’s a disciplined hitter and one of the best in the game. “For me, I can build off of that so next time I face him, hopefully I have a different mindset going into it. I took a lot from that at-bat.”
The walk wasn’t ideal, of course, but that fastball was a more aggressive miss in the spot he wanted to throw it. Fulmer said he’s growing to understand that having a top-quality arsenal of pitches — as he does — isn’t enough to make it at the major league level.
“If you don’t have an approach and don’t place it in the right spot, you’re going to get hit,” Fulmer said. “Attacking early, getting ahead obviously is the job of a pitcher, but quality pitches in the zone and putting it in the zone where they’re going to take swings at it.”
The Royals roughed up Fulmer for three runs on five hits in two innings on Saturday, so his start Thursday can be considered an improvement results-wise. There were a couple of hard-hit outs in there, though the run he gave up came on a bloop double, wild pitch and errant throw to third base.
While manager Robin Ventura traveled to Surprise for the other half of the White Sox split squad action Thursday, he said before leaving Camelback Ranch that he hoped Fulmer would be a little calmer his second time out.
“Hopefully it can just be a little easier,” Ventura said. “Last time he was out there he was amped up. Even for our guys, Carlos (Rodon) last year, it gets a little easier as they go out more times and have the opportunity to go out there and relax a little bit."
At this nascent juncture in his career, every start will bring something new for Fulmer. But he already felt more settled in spring training start No. 2, which comes across as a small-yet-positive step in his overall development.
“I feel like I’m getting really comfortable with it each time I go out there,” Fulmer said. “I’ll just take the positives from this outing and move forward on to the next.”