By: Will Burchfield
It was about a month ago that Michael Fulmer and the Tigers considered surgery a last resort for his right elbow.
“I’m more of a skeptic when it comes to getting under the knife,” Fulmer said at the time. “I’ve already had three of them. I don’t want anymore.”
His worst fears were realized on Monday.
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus told reporters that Fulmer, 24, will undergo ulnar nerve transposition surgery on Tuesday.
The recovery time is three to four months.
Fulmer hasn’t pitched since Aug. 29 due to ulnar neuritis in his right elbow. It’s an issue he’s dealt with since 2015, one that causes numbness and tingling in the fingers on his throwing hand.
The burly righty has been able to pitch through it in the past because the symptoms never arose while he was pitching. They’d typically set in after his start and abate the following day.
That changed this season, when Fulmer felt a zap in his right forearm while pitching versus the Yankees on Aug. 1. Then the numbness crept into his middle finger and Fulmer lost command of his pitches, especially his changeup.
The Tigers shut him down for about two weeks, hoping that rest would solve the problem. At the time, doctors agreed it was the best course of action.
But he felt another zap — the worst he’s ever experienced, he said — pitching versus the Yankees on Aug. 24. The Tigers shut him down a second time after his ensuing start.
He hasn’t pitched since and won’t pitch again this season. If all goes according to plan, Fulmer will be ready for the start of spring training in 2018.
In 22 starts this season, Fulmer was 10-12 with a 3.83 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP. He led the majors with 0.7 HR/9.