Carson Fulmer's latest major league stint lasted just one day, but: 'I think I'm a big part of this whole rebuild'

Carson Fulmer's latest major league stint lasted just one day, but: 'I think I'm a big part of this whole rebuild'

Carson Fulmer will have to wait a little longer to show he can be a reliable member of the White Sox major league bullpen. But Monday was a good start. Or, rather, a good relief.

Fulmer was promoted to the big league team ahead of Monday's game against the Tampa Bay Rays, and a few hours later, he made his first pitching appearance in the big leagues since last May. He was good. But he was never going to get a chance to stick this time.

Manager Rick Renteria revealed that the plan was always to have Fulmer available as bullpen insurance for Monday's game after six relievers were used in Sunday's loss to the Seattle Mariners. The plan involved sending him back to Charlotte immediately after, and that's what happened, Fulmer optioned back to Charlotte to free up a roster spot, presumably, for Ervin Santana, who's expected to start Tuesday's game.

That doesn't mean that Fulmer won't get a chance to stick sometime down the road, and with the rave review he got from Renteria after the game, perhaps that opportunity will come sooner rather than later.

"(The plan) was to get him in and get him back, continue to have him work on the things he's doing. It's obviously working," Renteria said. "He looked very, very good today. His last outing in the minor leagues was 2.1 (innings). We got him a little beyond that and up close to 50 pitches. We were very, very happy with his progress. We're extremely ecstatic about how he looked today."

The last time Fulmer pitched in the majors, pitched on the mound at Guaranteed Rate Field, he gave up eight runs and walked five Texas Rangers in a two-inning start on May 18. He went down to Triple-A after that and continued to struggle as a starter. The White Sox moved him to a bullpen role, and he fared better.

Monday, he had a very nice return trip to the big leagues, retiring seven of the first eight batters he faced in relief of Carlos Rodon, who made it just 4.2 innings in the third straight outing by a White Sox starter to last fewer than five innings. Fulmer ran into some trouble in the eighth, giving up two hits and issuing two walks, needing to be lifted before the end of that inning. It was a somewhat sour finish to an otherwise sweet outing, though it might have only happened because Renteria hoped to squeeze a little more "bullpen saving" out of a guy already destined to head back to the minors.

Regardless of the reasoning, Fulmer's numbers won't end up as nice as they might have. But no matter. He was happy with his performance, as was the team. So for a guy drafted No. 8 overall to be a fixture in the starting rotation, a bullpen role might be the route to being a key contributor at the major league level for Fulmer.

This might not have been the extended audition he was hoping for, but he still managed to show the White Sox something positive.

"I think I’m a big part of this whole rebuild," Fulmer said. "I’ve had a lot of experience at this level, for the most part. And I’m starting to learn a lot of stuff. It’s all a learning experience. The more innings I have under my belt, the more comfortable I’m going to continue to be. I’m definitely looking forward to getting back up here.

"Any situation they need me to pitch in, I’m willing to do it. I've been a guy that bounces back pretty quick. I take a lot of pride in my recovery and being able to be available for them to use me. Any situation they put me out there for, I’m definitely ready for it and I’ll definitely be ready."

Fulmer should sit by his phone. If the bullpen continues to put up the kinds of numbers it has in the season's first handful of games, the White Sox will likely turn to the minor leagues for other relief options. Fulmer is part of the group of young relievers who could factor into the team's long-term plans, and this season could provide the auditions those guys need to pencil their names into that bullpen of the future.

Fulmer believes he's still a big part of this rebuild, and he very well might be, even if it's in a different role than initially dreamed. If he keeps pitching how he did Monday, he'll get another shot — a lengthier shot, one would imagine — a chance to prove he deserves a role in the White Sox future.

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Carson Fulmer gets another big league chance, but for how long remains to be seen

Carson Fulmer gets another big league chance, but for how long remains to be seen

Carson Fulmer is back in the big leagues. For how long is anyone's guess.

The White Sox brought Fulmer up from Triple-A Charlotte ahead of Monday's series-opener with the visiting Tampa Bay Rays, filling the roster void created when they optioned outfielder Ryan Cordell to Charlotte after Sunday's loss to the Seattle Mariners.

The move made plenty of sense, the White Sox adding an arm to a taxed bullpen. Manager Rick Renteria used six relievers Sunday after starter Ivan Nova gave up seven runs in 2.1 innings of work. He needed four arms a day earlier when Lucas Giolito couldn't get out of the sixth. In general, it was a woeful weekend for White Sox pitching, which gave up 29 runs and 10 homers to the Mariners in the three-game series.

But there's another ingredient to this roster-move stew that continues to linger around the team.

The White Sox are expected to put starting pitcher Ervin Santana on the active roster ahead of Tuesday's game, when he's expected to make his first start of the season and bring the starting rotation to a full complement of five pitchers. It should be noted that the team has not said that's what will be happening. If that's what does end up happening, it will necessitate another roster move. Removing a bullpen pitcher in favor of Santana would be logical, and maybe Fulmer's stay in the majors lasts just one day. Though, as chronicled in the wake of Sunday's blowout loss, the numbers in the White Sox relief corps are generally ugly, and a case could be made to give any one of a number of guys a stay in Triple-A and allow Fulmer a chance to prove himself capable at the major league level over a lengthier period of time.

All that will shake out over the course of the next 24 hours.

Until another move is made, Fulmer is once again a Major League Baseball player. The No. 8 pick in the 2015 draft, Fulmer's numbers in multiple big league stints have not been good. He owns a 6.68 ERA in 24 career appearances, 13 of which have been starts. He started the 2018 season as a part of the White Sox rotation but fared miserably, allowing 29 earned runs, giving up eight homers and walking 24 batters in just 32.1 innings. He was sent down in mid May, continued to struggle as a starting pitcher in Charlotte and was transitioned to a bullpen role. His numbers improved as a reliever, and he put up a 4.37 ERA over his last 16 appearances of 2018, all in relief.

The White Sox are not giving up on their first-round draft pick from four years ago making a long-term impact quite yet, and maybe he ends up being one of the team's fleet of young bullpen arms that sticks around for the transition from rebuilding to contending.

"The previous spring, everything was a little shortened — not in velocity, not in sharpness, but in distance. He was actually grounding a lot of pitches, ball out of hand. I thought this spring was a lot better," Renteria said of Fulmer on Monday. "I thought he was throwing a lot of strikes. He was staying down in the zone. His direction was better. I thought his confidence level was high, as well.

"We expect and hope that we have some success with him in that (bullpen) role. Certainly, he has the ability to do, I think, both (be a starter and a reliever). But he continues to improve and get himself on track. I think that his mindset’s always been a very good one. Hopefully, we’ll be able to combine both his physical ability and his mindset to work through something positive for him and us."

Perhaps Fulmer's big league bullpen audition starts now. Perhaps it will have to wait until later in the season. But that first-round status isn't going away. It's up to him and the White Sox to figure out if he can still make an impact.

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After offseason of rediscovery, Carson Fulmer ready to jump back into White Sox future plans

After offseason of rediscovery, Carson Fulmer ready to jump back into White Sox future plans

GLENDALE, Ariz. — “I just wasn’t myself, plain and simple.”

These are the words coming from Carson Fulmer, former College Pitcher of the Year and the White Sox first-round pick in 2015.

“I love the environment, I love big crowds. I love the chance of putting my team in a great position to win, and I lost that. I lost that for a while. It was very hard to understand how and why I lost that,” Fulmer said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago.

This is not the story, nor the career, Fulmer envisioned for himself when he was projected to be a future star in the majors after going 14-2 with a 1.83 ERA in his final season at Vanderbilt.

His college coach, Tim Corbin, who coached All Stars like David Price and Sonny Gray, called Fulmer “the strongest-willed kid we’ve had come through” and compared him to boxer Joe Frazier. “He’d just keep coming and keep throwing punches.”

Now four years after being drafted, Fulmer finds himself fighting to get back in the majors and to get back to being an important piece of the White Sox future. He’s been knocked down, particularly last year. He opened the season in the White Sox rotation as their fifth starter but made only eight starts before being sent down to Triple-A Charlotte, where his struggles continued and he was eventually moved to the bullpen.

But he’s arrived at spring training standing tall, minus more than 15 pounds and his trademark wavy hair. He cut most of it off. He’s lighter, wiser and he promises to be better.

“I’ve heard from a lot of veteran guys that I’ve played with over the last three years that you’ve got to be able to control the environment and the situation, and if you don’t, the game will speed up on you and that’s exactly what happened to me,” Fulmer said. “That’s something I was never used to.”

And losing? Failing? Last year was completely unchartered territory for him. He had an 8.07 ERA in 32.1 innings with the White Sox, a 5.32 ERA with the Knights and didn’t receive a call back to the majors in September.

“I never really faced that much failure in my career,” Fulmer said. “Obviously, the end of last year didn’t work out the way I wanted to. It just really drove me to figure out some things about myself.”

That meant going back to his offseason home in Seattle and joining up with Driveline Baseball, a data-driven player-development company that follows many of the methods he used at Vanderbilt. Fulmer says the White Sox didn’t have a problem with him trying something new, or old, in this case. Among those joining him at Driveline were major league pitchers Adam Ottavino and Trevor Bauer.

“We all threw with each other. We all pushed each other. It was just a great environment and position to be in. I learned a lot about my body and what it’s capable of doing,” Fulmer said.

Even before taking the mound for his first Cactus League game of the year Saturday against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Fulmer says he’s already exceeded his expectations coming into camp.

“I’m definitely in a great place now. Physically I feel really, really strong. I feel healthy. I’m back to some of the routines that gave me the opportunity to be in this position in the first place,” Fulmer explained.

That includes a quick, compact delivery where he drives down the mound toward home plate.

“I got away from that for a while, and I think it kind of messed with my control a little bit, and my power. I felt like a lost a lot of velocity and just needed to get back being strong and athletic. I feel great. I looked at a lot of college video and early on video I had in pro ball and it’s pretty close to it now.”

While it might seem like Fulmer was drafted like a decade ago, he only turned 25 in December. Considering his college success and maturity, the White Sox fast-tracked him to Chicago in 2016, one year after being drafted, figuring he was ready for The Show.

Looking back now, Fulmer acknowledges he wasn’t as prepared for the major leagues as he thought he was.

“I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to go up and go to the big leagues so early in my career, but there were a lot of things I didn’t know about the big leagues,” Fulmer said. “The big leagues was a dream come true and I think I got caught up in that a little bit. Being up three times already and going into my fourth season, I have a lot of memories, a lot of experiences I can look back on. I know what I need to do to get ready for this year. This is the best I’ve felt by far, even dating back to college. This is the best I’ve felt mentally and physically. I’m definitely ready for the opportunity.”

As a starter or a reliever?

“I just know that I have to get to the big leagues and I have to have success. If that’s starting or relieving, I have to help this team win. I’ll play any role they want me to be,” he said. “Starting with the ball and ending with the ball is something I’ve always loved to do as a starter, but as a reliever I love to pick the starting pitcher up and really lock down situations I’ve been called upon to take care of.  Anything.

"Any opportunity I can have to help this team win is something I look forward to this year.”

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