BREAKING: Michael Fulmer heads to the DL

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MLB: Cleveland Indians at Detroit Tigers
Sep 28, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Michael Fulmer (32) pitches the ball during the fourth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The disappointing season for the Detroit Tigers just took another turn for the worse. Michael Fulmer is headed to the DL with right elbow ulnar neuritis, retroactive August 1.

It isn’t yet clear just exactly how long he’ll be out. Ulnar neuritis, or cubital tunnel syndrome, is inflammation of the ulnar nerve in the arm that results in numbness or weakness in the hand. Basically, it’s a “funny bone” that helps with feeling in the fingers necessary to grip things.

The reigning American League Rookie of the Year Fulmer is currently 10-9 on the year with a 3.59 ERA with a 1.13 WHIP through 21 starts and 140.1 innings of work. That’s already five fewer innings and 18.2 fewer innings than his 2016 campaign.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Cleveland Indians
Sep 16, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Michael Fulmer (32) reacts after being called for a balk during the third inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

It’s certainly plausible that this most recent time out is when he could have endured this injury. Fulmer against the New York Yankees on Monday allowed seven runs (six earned) in six innings of work. And two starts prior on the road in Kansas City, he lasted just 2.2 innings and allowed a season-high eight runs, albeit three were unearned.

It would certainly explain why there were reports earlier on Thursday that the Tigers were calling up veteran reliever Edward Mujica to the big league club. The team continues their 9-game east coast road trip on Thursday with the first of a 4-game series in Baltimore.

Manager Brad Ausmus has not decided who will take Fulmer’s spot in the rotation when his turn comes around next. Ausmus does have some options in his bullpen that are typically starters but have been used in long relief for Detroit this season.

  • WARWICK SAUPOLD: The 27-year-old Aussie made seven starts with Toledo and compiled a 2.90 ERA this season. Since being promoted by the Tigers, Saupold has been very solid in the bullpen, registering a 3.29 ERA in 27 appearances.
  • CHAD BELL: Like Saupold, the lefty Bell started the season in the Mud Hens’ rotation before being called up to the majors and being asked to perform in long relief. Bell was terrific in May and June (eight games, 2.33 ERA) but struggled mightily in July (six games, 12.34 ERA).
  • DREW VERHAGEN: VerHagen was recently called up by the Tigers after making 19 starts for Toledo down at Triple-A (4.90 ERA, 1.55 WHIP). Drew has appeared in two games since the call-up, allowing three runs in four innings of work.

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