Carson Fulmer yet to make case for fifth starter job

There's still a lot of spring left, and he'll need to use that time to rebound

The markers of time that help differentiate the days and months during the regular season don’t really exist in the Cactus League, especially over the first couple of weeks. Starters only pitch a couple innings, and position players last only half the game. Every game is day game, every first pitch is just about at the same time, and the weather varies little. The scores are of no consequence.

When a non-roster invitee shows up on the mound, there aren’t many cues whether it’s the third inning or the eighth, on March 4 or March 16. It only adds to the disorientation when the third inning lasts as the first and second combined.

And when that non-roster invitee shows up and brings order back to the proceedings, I wonder if that work makes an outsized impression on the manager. They’re the same circumstances that led Ozzie Guillen to call D.J. Carrasco his MVP back in 2009

“A lot of people say, ‘Well the MVP is the person who has the best numbers.’ Well, the manager’s MVP is the guy who helped him out the most. When I said in 2005 that Tadahito Iguchi was my MVP, people didn’t believe me. Carrasco was picking garbage from everybody.”

… and maybe it’s even greater during the spring, as the pitchers are tasked with getting the others off the field as they push forward toward the games that actually count.

This line of thinking has surfaced a couple times this spring. There’s Jeanmar Gomez, who has thrown 5⅔ scoreless innings so far. Two of them came on Friday after a disastrous outing by Joakim Soria triggered a 65-minute fourth inning. Gomez restored sanity to the proceedings, and the game wrapped up in a reasonable three hours and 44 minutes, all things considered. Could that put him ahead of other relievers competing for the open spot? Maybe it’s a tiebreaker.

And then there’s Sunday.

Theoretically, Carson Fulmer could have pitched worse, but I don’t know if he could’ve been more frustrating. He allowed four runs on four hits and four walks in an inning and three batters, which speaks for itself. The crazy thing is that he spent most of his afternoon well ahead in the count. He started seven of eight hitters with a strike, and he had two-strike counts on three of his four walks. He also  gave up three of his four runs on 0-2 mistakes — a homer to Manuel Margot and a two-run single to Fernando Tatis Jr.

Then Hector Santiago came in and got the game into the fifth inning, throwing three comparatively easy frames of one-run ball (although he had his own two-strike facepalm when he plunked Franchy Cordero).

Both of Fulmer’s spring outings have been rough ones, and his tenor has changed from the first

“I was able to pound the strike zone (and) I got ahead of a lot of hitters,” Fulmer said. “With two strikes, I tried to be a little too fine. With it being my first outing, I was flying open just a tad and the ball caught the plate a little bit. (There were) a lot of positives. I induced two or three ground balls. Obviously, with the leadoff homer, I felt like I was down. Good one to build off of regardless of the results.”

to the second:

“It’s really frustrating,” Fulmer said. “Just like the last outing, I got ahead of a lot of guys, either 0-2 or 1-2, and I just wasn’t able to put them away. I fell back behind in counts, left balls over the middle of the plate. It’s easy to say to let this one go and get ready for the next one, but it’s tough. It’s tough, especially in the position that I am, and to be in a position to make an impact on this team, I have to put away guys. I have to use this outing and build off of it as much as I can and then get ready for the next one.”

Fulmer’s first start was sabotaged by ugly outfield defense, which has been persistent this spring and required Rick Renteria to hold a back-to-basics workout. Nobody’s going to hold that line against him. Regarding Sunday, though, Fulmer was on an island, and it’s the kind of outing that puts a dent into his margin for error, especially when another potential fifth-starter candidate is having an easier time ramping up his workload. Spring results might not matter to the number, but Fulmer is pitching so poorly that he’s only been able to log two innings, while Santiago has thrown eight.

Fulmer has the most logical case for the fifth-starter job out of the gate. He pitched well to end the year, he won’t necessarily benefit from more time in Triple-A and he doesn’t have much experience out of the bullpen. If he takes a beating, he can be replaced without much debate, whether by an unexciting option like Santiago or a fun one like Michael Kopech. A logical case isn’t a lock, though, and it becomes harder to sell if he’s lagging behind in innings, walks and strikeouts.

The consolation is that it’s still early. He’s making life difficult on himself since every dud confirms everybody’s worst fears, but one good start will get him back on track. You can lose football and basketball games in the first quarter, but you can’t lose a spring training positional battle that early here.

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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katiesphil

I’m thinking Hector wants to spend his summer pitching every five days.

katiesphil

Clearly in BSOSL.

Patrick Nolan

Oh geez, seriously? That guy, man.

Trooper Galactus

Mechanical breakdowns are not your problem, Gordo.

Glover Not a Fighter

Dear God! What a head case!

Bigger head case in Sox history: Gordon Beckham of Nick Swisher?

JoeNathan

Well Swisher was probably a weirder guy, but at least he was able to play good baseball at times. Gordon I’d say is a more delusional head case which is more self contained/doesn’t impact the rest of the clubhouse as much.

35Shields

Is Gordon really delusional? If someone told you that unrealistic optimism could help you earn millions of dollars, wouldn’t you go with it too?

PauliePaulie

I think he’ll be a great 7th inning guy on a contending team someday.

soxfanpa

If I squint, Jeanmar looks like Q and I miss him a little less.

Trooper Galactus

I was present for Fulmer’s late August outing where he got shelled out of the game almost immediately. It was possibly the worst pitching performance I’d ever seen in person, and everything about the way he threw and what he was throwing just looked awful. I’m with Josh in that I just don’t see him getting the consistency required to be a starting pitcher.

Glover Not a Fighter

Can we attribute at least some of our frustration with Fulmer on the fact that his Vanderbilt teammate, Walker Buehler (of the same 2015 draft class), looks like a bona fide starter prospect?

It makes me mad, FWIW…

zerobs

My frustration with him is that he hasn’t really earned his 40-man spot and only has it because they lost their 2nd and 3rd round picks the year he was drafted. The front office wanted him to come through as quickly as Rodon and he hasn’t.

tommytwonines

Or you can look to the guy selected right after Fulmer now playing on the Northside. But Carson still has plenty of time to get it all working, I’m hoping. 

35Shields

Or you could look to the guys that the Sox have gotten in the last two years with worse draft positions. I’d much rather have another Collins or Burger in the system

zerobs

Is Adams injured? If not it’s time to give him a few spring innings. In nine months they have to decide to put him on the 40-man or expose him to Rule 5 – and he won’t slip through like Guerrero did.

tommytwonines

I believe Jim said he was injured – maybe a finger -which is why he wasn’t invited to camp. 

Hatchetman

When your team isn’t trying to win you don’t need to “make a case.”

Trooper Galactus

That’s actually exactly the time a prospect is supposed to make a case.

striker

I have no faith in Fulmer. Let’s give someone else attention that deserves it, like Stephens.