GLENDALE, Ariz. — Being out of minor-league options might help right-hander Carson Fulmer’s chances of making the White Sox’ Opening Day roster.
Pitching better certainly will.
Fulmer has been pitching like a man pitching for his major-league life, which hasn’t gone as planned after he was selected with the eighth overall pick in the 2015 draft. He thinks he belongs.
‘‘I have unbelievable ability,’’ Fulmer said. ‘‘I just have to trust it.’’
Following the lead of teammates who have taken measures to get their minds right to perform, Fulmer said he worked with ‘‘a specialist’’ during the offseason and came to spring training in the right frame of mind.
‘‘I worked on the mental side this offseason; that was actually the biggest focus,’’ Fulmer said. ‘‘My focus is very simple: Throw it in the zone. And I’m pounding the strike zone. I’m attacking hitters; I’m wanting guys to put the ball in play. And I’m inducing a lot of weak contact, getting a lot of fly balls and striking out a lot of guys. But more important, I’m just filling up the zone and keeping my approach really simple.’’
Fulmer’s latest outing came Sunday in relief of right-hander Reynaldo Lopez. He finished the fifth inning against the Padres by striking out Abraham Almonte and Tommy Pham swinging. In six relief appearances covering eight innings, Fulmer has a 2.25 ERA with eight strikeouts and three walks.
While the strikeout pitch has been working, Fulmer said he has come to understand that it’s OK to let hitters get themselves out. He now knows pitching to contact can work for him.
‘‘I’m a perfectionist, and I’ve always wanted to make the perfect pitch,’’ he said. ‘‘In most circumstances, it’s pretty hard to do. Only a certain amount of guys can do that. So my focus now is just being able to execute a good pitch. If my stuff’s in the zone, I have success. So trust in my ability and be confident, which I am.’’
There is a spot to be won in the Sox’ bullpen, but Fulmer’s 6.56 ERA in 44 major-league games doesn’t bode well for him. He has bounced between Class AAA Charlotte and the Sox for four seasons now.
In 2018, he was given a spot in the starting rotation out of spring training but finished the season in Charlotte after posting an 8.07 ERA in nine games (eight starts). Last season, he was recalled from Charlotte four times but struggled to a 6.26 ERA in 20 games (two starts).
Fulmer said working on the mental side ‘‘was tough, that’s for sure. I had to get through some stuff.’’
But he understood it was something he needed to do.
‘‘I was able to come up with a routine and a plan,’’ he said. ‘‘And we worked on keys where every time I go on the mound, I can feel comfortable. So it’s a huge step in the right direction. I think that it’s going to be career-changing.’’
The Sox’ bullpen likely will feature Alex Colome, Aaron Bummer, Steve Cishek, Evan Marshall, Kelvin Herrera, Jimmy Cordero and Jace Fry. That leaves a spot for Fulmer, provided he can earn it.
‘‘I’m going after it,’’ Fulmer said. ‘‘I’ve pitched pretty well to kind of fit in that position, but I still have to do the job.’’
‘‘You never know,’’ manager Rick Renteria said. ‘‘We’re still having conversations about all the guys that we have, but he’s certainly done well.’’