Detroit Tigers reveal starting pitchers for first two spring training games

Evan Petzold, Detroit Free Press
·3 min read

LAKELAND, Fla. — The Detroit Tigers announced the first two starting pitchers of their spring training games, beginning Sunday against the Philadelphia Phillies at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland.

The first starting pitcher is left-hander Tyler Alexander, manager AJ Hinch said Thursday morning. And when the Tigers hit the road for Tampa on Monday to face the New York Yankees, he will give the ball to right-hander Michael Fulmer.

Both games begin at 1:05 p.m. ET.

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"Getting him up and running quickly gives him an assessment," Hinch said about Fulmer, who underwent elbow surgery in March 2019. "It also gives us an assessment as to where he's at today versus where he was last regular season."

The Tigers play a 29-game Grapefruit League schedule, from Sunday through March 30, including 15 home contests. Opening Day is slated for April 1 against the Cleveland Indians at Comerica Park.

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Detroit Tigers pitcher Tyler Alexander throws batting practice Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, on the Tiger Town practice fields in Lakeland, Florida.
Detroit Tigers pitcher Tyler Alexander throws batting practice Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, on the Tiger Town practice fields in Lakeland, Florida.

Alexander, 26, primarily pitched out of the bullpen in 2020. He had a 3.96 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 34 strikeouts and nine walks in 36⅓ innings. Of his 14 games, only two were as a starter.

In 2019, Alexander started eight of his 13 games and finished with a 4.86 ERA.

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Despite getting Monday's start, Alexander remains more likely to end up the Tigers' bullpen, but that could change depending on potential injuries and the performances of other players.

Fulmer, 27, made all 10 of his starts last season, pitching 27⅔ innings. It was his first season back from Tommy John surgery, so the Tigers limited him to no more than three innings in an outing. He had 20 strikeouts and 12 walks, with a 2.06 WHIP.

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Detroit Tigers pitcher Michael Fulmer throws batting practice Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, on the Tiger Town practice fields at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Florida.
Detroit Tigers pitcher Michael Fulmer throws batting practice Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, on the Tiger Town practice fields at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Florida.

Hinch said getting Fulmer an early spring training start is crucial to tracking his development. The hope is the 2016 American League Rookie of the Year can handle a greater workload and reinvent his game to counter a decrease in his velocity.

This offseason, Fulmer worked "pretty diligently" to tweak his mechanics, add strength and become consistent with his pitches.

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"One, he is physically ready," Hinch said. "Two, he has had enough time off in the last year or two that he wants more mound time. Every morning (pitching coaches Chris Fetter and Juan Nieves) have a volunteer session without throwing on the mound to work on mechanics and delivery.

"Fulmer goes out there nearly every morning. That type of attention to his delivery — the next step for us is the game. He wants as many as he can get."

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers reveal starters for first two spring training games