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.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.