GLENDALE, Ariz. — Carson Fulmer appears to be on his way to joining the White Sox’ core of young, quality pieces in their starting rotation.
It won’t be out of spring training — Fulmer probably needs more seasoning after being drafted eighth overall from Vanderbilt last June — but the 22-year-year-old right-hander is making strides in his first major league camp, and should contribute in some fashion this season.
“He’s slightly ahead of where Carlos Rodon was last year,” pitching coach Don Cooper said Monday, “and with the addition of the cutter as another pitch for a strike I really feel good about where he’s at. The plan we’ve got for him, and where we’re heading.”
That’s saying a lot. Rodon, 23 finished strong his rookie season and is entrenched as the Sox’ No. 3 starter behind Chris Sale, 27, and Jose Quintana, 27.
Fulmer pitched 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief against the Oakland A’s Sunday, by far the best of his four appearances including two starts. Rodon, the No. 3 overall pick in 2014, was in a similar place a year ago, destined for the rotation but finding his way against major league hitters for the first time.
A College World Series hero in 2014, Fulmer comes with the best curveball in the Sox’ farm system, a high motor and big character. His outings in Arizona have been mixed, “but he’s coming,” Cooper said.
“He’s coming fast it looks like and I really like what I see in this kid,” said Cooper, who in addition to teaching his go-to cutter to Fulmer has slowed his windup and moved him on the rubber.
Class AA Birmingham is a likely destination after spring training — Fulmer pitched to a 2.05 ERA in eight starts at Class A Winston-Salem last season — and his progression will be watched closely with right-hander Mat Latos and lefty John Danks likely holding down the back end of the rotation. The Sox can use another right-hander in the starting five.
Time will tell. For now, Fulmer seems to understand he needs a little more time. But maybe not much.
“I’ve played on a big stage at Vanderbilt. I’ve played in front of some big crowds,” Fulmer said. “But this is different. You’re playing with the best of the best and for me the only way I’m going to get better is if I get thrown out there.”