Enough about Paul Sewald and Chris Flexen helping to make the Seattle Mariners relevant. It’s too much for the common New York Mets fan sick of hearing about how more pitchers have left the franchise only to find their best selves with a new organization.
Fans don’t need to be punished with this anymore. Enough already!
But then comes Michael Fulmer. He’s a far different case than Sewald and Flexen. The Mets never gave up on him. They traded him away before he even made his major league debut. And after a rough few seasons, it appears he has finally found his niche with the Detroit Tigers.
Former Mets prospect Michael Fulmer has become a credible closer for the Tigers
It looked like Fulmer was on his way to becoming a star pitcher in the American League. One can even argue he reached it back in 2016 when he was Rookie of the Year. The following season, he was an All-Star despite a dip in his overall totals.
Fulmer was on top of the world. Still in his early 20s, the sky was the limit.
Then came his 3-12, 4.69 ERA season in 2018. An injury knocked him out for all of 2019 and in 2020 he was 0-2 with an 8.78 ERA in 10 starts.
He was clearly not the same pitcher he was earlier on in his career. However, in 2021, the Tigers decided to try something different with him.
Fulmer began the year in the Tigers bullpen and eventually found himself back in the rotation temporarily in April. He went back to pitching in relief and picked up his first career save on May 5. Still not the official closer for the 2021 season, he would remain in the bullpen mostly as a setup man for the majority of the season.
It wasn’t until mid-September when the ninth inning was handed off to this former Mets prospect. Known in our circles as the man traded for Yoenis Cespedes in 2015, Fulmer finished off the year with five successful saves in as many opportunities. His season would include 14 successful saves and an impressive 2.97 ERA. As a reliever, he had a 2.53 ERA across 57 innings of work.
This might not have been the most spectacular of years for any relief pitchers. However, coming from out of nowhere and pointing his career in a whole new direction, Tigers fans need to feel confident that they can get something from him going forward.
Amazingly enough, Fulmer is already set to hit free agency after next season. Time flies. Following his rookie year in 2016 when the Tigers won 86 games and missed the postseason, the most Fulmer’s Detroit teammates have experienced are the 77 they won this past year—matching what the Mets did.
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I suspect Fulmer’s role with the Tigers in 2022 might have him back in the closer spot or similar role. Either way, the 180-degree career turn is a positive step in the right direction for this once-promising Mets prospect.