Acquired by the Detroit Tigers in the trade deadline deal that sent star centerfielder Yoenis Cespedes to the New York Mets last July, Michael Fulmer already ranks No. 1 among the Tigers' top pitching prospects, according to MLB Pipeline. The 22-year-old Edmond, Oklahoma, native, a former first-round draft pick, will be competing for a spot on this year's roster in his first spring training with the club and though fans have probably already heard about his mid-90s fastball and his nasty slider, here are a few things they might not already know:
Favorite movie: "The Big Lebowski." You can't mess with The Dude. Fulmer estimates he has seen the movie 50 times.
Favorite musician: "I'm really liking -- I mean I love George Strait -- but as far as the newer guys, Cole Swindell, Jason Aldean, stuff like that. Country."
Earliest baseball memory: "Three or four years old, hitting off the tee. My dad always coached me all through Little League and stuff and he's always in the back. Down in Louisiana where I was born, every day was hot and humid, but he was outside [with me]. Biggest memory of that would be we had this brick house and above the garage is the attic and he would take a tennis ball and stand at the end of the driveway and I'd stand up close. He'd take it and he'd lob it and I'd work on reaction times and coordination. I'd throw it back to him off the wall, he'd throw it back to me and I'd catch it. And that's kind of where it all started, throwing a tennis ball off a brick wall. And I remember to this day, we'd probably do it four or five times a day, just when he got back from work [he was a production engineer in the oil and gas business]."
Guilty pleasure: "[Resident video gamer ] Blaine Hardy persuaded me to buy my own X-box so I bought that a couple of days ago. As far as other sports, I'm a wannabe golfer and a decent bowler. I've got my own ball and shoes and stuff. [High score is a 244]" Was it inspired by "The Big Lebowski?" "It kinda was. That's kind of how I got into the movie, honestly. That's why I love watching it and stuff. I started bowling and I got to the point where I could be consistent with it and then someone referred me to The Big Lebowski and I've loved it ever since."
Biggest obstacle: "It'd have to be 2013 and 2014. I had three surgeries, two on my knee and one on my elbow [bone spurs]. Nothing big, all minor things, but it was more frustrating than painful and obviously it set me back. But, it's all behind me now and it felt good last year and I've put it past me."
First call once you were traded: "My fiancee, now my wife. Then it was my dad."
Immediate thoughts after 2015 trade: "I've never been through anything like that. It was kind of a weird scenario because we were playing in Richmond, Virginia, playing for the Binghamton Mets, Double-A with the Mets. We were in Richmond for a three-game series. The second day, I was in between starts so I was throwing my bullpen during practice. I sat down to talk to my pitching coach and it was just me and him out there -- I had already done my running and lifting or whatever. So I'm talking to him about everything and the clubhouse manager comes out and was like 'Hey, Fulmer, your manager wants to see you.' And I had known it was the trade deadline and it was 4:30 p.m. or something like that. By the time, I saw it. it was already past. So I didn't think anything of it when I got up that morning. I thought I was going to stay a Met. They called me in and all my teammates were clapping. They were watching MLB network and I look up and see the big trade. They were yelling 'There's the new Tiger' and this and that and our manager walks out of his office and was like, 'Well, I guess you know what's up.' It was all kind of surreal. I'm ecstatic and blessed that it happened and I'm hoping to stay here for a long time."
Describe your repertoire: "Most confident, I feel, is my fastball. Slider, changeup. Last year I stopped throwing my curveball. I don't know if I want to bring it back yet or not. I think that by not throwing the curveball, my slider got better and my changeup got better. Ultimately, I just want to work on fastball command and learn how to locate my pitches rather than just trying to throw 'em for a strike."
Nickname: "Different ones throughout my career. Fulm-Piece. Full. Fully. Most people just call me Michael or Fulmer, nothing too big."
Best buddy in baseball: "A guy that plays for the Miami Marlins, Brian Anderson. He actually finished in High-A last year. We actually graduated together from the same high school and he was the best man at my wedding in January. If you ever talk to him, he could tell you the story about us facing each other last year. I want to stay away from it. You'll have to get it from him. But, make sure to get the whole story -- all three plate appearances, not just one."
Preference, starter vs. reliever: "They actually haven't told me anything yet so I'm just coming into camp looking to compete for any spot that I can. You know, I'm sure they have plans and stuff like that but as of right now, coming in to camp as a starter and I'll adjust accordingly. I'm a very coachable guy. Obviously, my biggest dream in life is to get to the big leagues. so whatever I need to do to get there and and whatever the team needs me to do, I'm going to do it."