Fulmer Still Has Room To Get Better

Fulmer still has things he wants to improve

It was a very good first full season statistically for right-hander Michael Fulmer. The 2011 first round pick posted a 2.74 ERA and nearly struck out a batter per inning pitched for the low-A Savannah Sand Gnats in 2012 and did so while making changes to his game. As good as he was, however, he still feels there's room for a lot of improvement.

He also allowed less hits than innings pitched, holding opposing batters to a mere .227 average, and he got better as the year went along, posting a 2.20 ERA in the second half of the season.

"I feel like it went well," Fulmer said. "For me to go to low-A Savannah after being drafted out of high school at the age of 19, I felt like that was a good accomplishment, that I proved what I had to prove. I think it went well overall."

There were plenty of small tweaks made his mechanics in his first full season and some changes made to his repertoire overall, but more than anything the Oklahoma native believes he improved the most in the mental aspect of the game and he credits his pitching coach.

"Honestly I think it was more mental than anything," he said of his biggest improvement. "I worked with Frank Viola and it's a pleasure. It's an honor really. I feel like I have carry around a pen and a notepad because everything that comes out of that guy's mouth is pure gold.

"He taught me situational things; what pitch to throw in which counts, try not to perfect a pitch, if you throw one well throw the same one, don't try to make it better, don't try to be perfect.

"Just basically just trust your stuff. As the season went on I felt like I did more and more of that, and the numbers got better and better."

It wasn't all mental maturity, however. Some of his changes were tangible physical alterations, including putting the curveball in his back pocket and focusing more on the slider in 2012, and getting to work on what was once a non-existent changeup.

"I think the changeup came a long way for not having one in high school usually," he admitted. "After kind of tampering with two or three different ones after I got drafted I finally found one and I think it came a long way. I threw it more each game and I think the slider came a long ways as well.

"I used to throw a 12-6 curveball and a slider as well, but they kind of resembled each other so I dropped the curve this season and the slider became harder, sharper, and it was really helpful.

"My slider really didn't get that fast until I dropped the curveball and started working with my slider more in my bullpens and side sessions."

His curveball at its high end would hit 80 mph and his slider on the low end would sit 82 mph, and the two pitches would kind of morph together at times so he scrapped the curveball in favor of the slider for now.

Doing that allowed him to bump up his slider velocity range from 82-88 mph and it clearly became his go-to strikeout pitch in Savannah this year.

Very confident in all of his pitches right now and coming off of a successful first full season, Fulmer knows all too well that there is still plenty of room for improvement going forward.

"The changeup is definitely not perfected by any means," he said flatly. "I still have a long way to go on it, but as far as improvement goes, and that's the biggest thing for me right now especially it being my first year and going into my second, it's how much am I improving on each pitch and overall I think the changeup came a long, long way this season.

"It's nowhere near perfect but I'm feeling more and more confident with it to throw it in certain counts."

He still has to slow it down more because his changeup velocity, which ranges from 85-88 mph, isn't a big difference from his slider let alone from his fastball.

"I kind of want a bigger contrast and difference between the fastball and changeup. It was kind of a hard change and acted like a little split [finger fastball], like a three-finger split. I need to learn how to take a little bit off of it. Time will come with that."

Improving his changeup isn't the only area that could use improvement either. While the fastball velocity was quite impressive in his first year, sitting mostly 92-94 mph and topping out at 97 mph, Fulmer believes there's still a ton of room to get better with his fastball too.

"The two-seamer, I got more sink to it and I used it as a situational pitch, like an 0-1 pitch to induce a ground ball. I'd use it as a double-play ball or if I wanted to get inside to a right-hander. I kind of use it as a separate pitch, not just another fastball.

"I think fastball command honestly is the biggest thing I need, to be able to command both sides of the plate, that is above everything for me, both the two-seam and the four-seam. I have confidence in both of them but I would like to have better command of both," he concluded.

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