Michael Fulmer
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Michael Fulmer may not pitch again in 2018

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Tigers right-hander Michael Fulmer isn’t a lock to return to the rotation this year after sustaining a knee injury during Saturday’s game against the Indians. While Cleveland advanced toward the postseason with a 15-0 win and another division title, Detroit lost their starter after just five pitches.

According to catcher James McCann‘s postgame comments, Fulmer dropped a few miles off his pitches at the start of the game, which made him a sitting duck for Francisco Lindor and Michael Brantley as they cracked back-to-back home runs in the first inning. Even more alarming, Fulmer’s velocity issues also revealed some problems with his knee, and he was quickly pulled from the game and later diagnosed with a case of right knee inflammation.

At this point, it’s still unclear how much time the right-hander might miss, and the Tigers will reserve a final judgment until they receive the results of his MRI on Monday. Given that Fulmer has just two scheduled starts remaining over the final two weeks of the regular season, a return to the mound seems somewhat unlikely. Following Saturday’s performance, the 25-year-old hurler has pitched to a disappointing 3-12 record in 24 starts with a 4.69 ERA, 3.1 BB/9 and 7.5 SO/9 through 132 1/3 frames this year.

Astros defend barring reporter from clubhouse

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As we wrote about this morning, last night the Houston Astros, at the request of Justin Verlander, barred Detroit Free Press reporter Anthony Fenech from the clubhouse during Verlander’s media availability following the Tigers-Astros game. After Verlander was done talking to the press in the scrum setting — and after a call was placed to Major League Baseball about the matter — Fenech was allowed in.

As we noted, this was done in violation of agreements to which Major League Baseball, the Houston Astros and the Baseball Writers Association of America are parties. The agreements are meant to ensure full access to BBWAA-accredited reporters as long as they have not violated the terms of their credentials.  In no case do the clubs — and certainly not the players — have the right to bar access to BBWAA-accredited reporters. Indeed, the whole point of the BBWAA is to ensure such access and to ensure that teams cannot bar them simply because they are unhappy with their coverage or what have you.

This morning Verlander tweeted, obliquely, about “unethical behavior” on the part of Fenech that led to his request to the Astros to bar him. As we noted at the time, such an allegation — however interesting it might be — is of no consequence to the admission or barring of a reporter. If Fenech has acted unethically it’s a matter between him and his employer and, potentially, between him and the BBWAA. At the very least, if Verlander has a specific concern, it would be incumbent upon him or the Astros to take the matter up with either the Free Press or the BBWAA.

In light of all of this, it’s hard to make a case for Verlander’s request and the Astros’ honoring it. A few moments ago, however, the Astros released as statement on the matter which, basically, says, “so what?”

Which is to say, the Astros have made a decades-long agreement between the BBWAA and MLB regarding reporter access optional, because a player does not like a reporter who is covering him.  Someone without the power to alter the BBWAA-MLB relationship has just done so unilaterally. And they have done so in such a way that any player, should they decide they don’t like a reporter, will now presumably rely on it as precedent. Finally, it should be noted that in issuing this statement, the Astros have given at least some tacit credence to Verlander’s thus far unsubstantiated and unspecified allegations of unethical behavior on the part of Fenech, which seems less-than-ideal at best.

It’s your move, Major League Baseball and BBWAA. Whatcha gonna do about it?