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The Carson Fulmer Conundrum Rolls On After Another Disastrous Start

After yet another disastrous outing for the one-time eighth overall draft pick in 2015, Carson Fulmer's future in Chicago is as unknown as it's ever been.

Frustrating was the word of the day for White Sox pitcher Carson Fulmer on Wednesday. He’s frustrated with himself, and others share his frustration as the former first round draft choice out of Vanderbilt struggles to establish himself this spring.

Fulmer used the word frustrating in some tense at least a handful of times on Wednesday afternoon after being clobbered by the Milwaukee Brewers, and taking his fourth loss of the spring campaign in four tries.

The 24-year old righty was victimized by Brewers’ slugger Ryan Braun on two separate occasions in his less than two full innings of work, once for a solo home run on a slider that missed its spot, and the second on a cutter that sailed on Fulmer before Braun promptly ejected it from the playing field for a grand slam.

“Just a bad outing,” Fulmer said. “Start of the game I was able to locate well, and then I kind of lost the zone a little bit — wasn’t able to make pitches when I needed to. It’s a tough one to swallow, and tomorrow’s a new day.”

Through 6.1 innings of “tough to swallow” work this spring, Fulmer has zero wins to four losses, and an ERA just under an even 20. Not exactly the spring that the White Sox were hoping for after Fulmer turned in a promising September to close the 2017 season.

Last season, Fulmer posted a 3-1 record in five starts (seven appearances) with a 3.86 ERA, but still struggled to hit his spots often, walking 13 hitters compared to his 19 strikeouts over the course of 23.1 innings of work. But you know what they say about September numbers, despite the final month of 2017 being the first semblance of what the White Sox were aiming for when they drafted Fulmer with the 8th pick of the 2015 MLB Draft.

The struggles by Fulmer have begged the question, what do the White Sox do heading into 2018?

Stick with Fulmer in the fifth spot of the rotation, or go with Hector Santiago in that role while Fulmer works out of the bullpen or heads back down to Charlotte to start in their rotation? Fulmer is adamant that despite the struggles, he’s working on making the most of his opportunity, and you’d imagine that he still sees himself in the rotation in Chicago this spring.

Either way, he’s not worried about the “spot”, and he’s not looking to put any added pressure on himself as he looks to work through his Cactus League hiccups.

“I’m making the most of the opportunity as I can,” Fulmer said. “I don’t really think about trying to get that spot as much as I can, it’s just a bunch of pressure that I don’t need to put on myself. Everything will work itself out.”

The theory of Carson Fulmer’s high-energy delivery being better suited for the bullpen than the rotation has always been opined by pundits, but Fulmer insisted on Wednesday that he is still looking to right the ship and assume the role he was drafted to fulfill.

“Absolutely,” Fulmer said. “I’ve got like two or three more starts, I’ll continue to work as hard as I can to go out there and have some success —  this is baseball, you have some tough times and some good times, just being able to stay level as you can [sic] and just move forward. I think that’s the most important thing for me.” -Carson Fulmer on whether or not he sees himself getting past his struggles before Opening Day.

As far his resume is concerned, Fulmer’s time in the White Sox organization doesn’t really tell me that he’s going to be a “can’t miss” reliever either.

Over the course of his nearly three years in the system, Fulmer is 13-19 with a 4.96 ERA over the course of 55 starts across multiple levels. Walks have always been a concern, Fulmer has 130 of them in 252 innings of minor league work.

However, the only time that Fulmer has worked out of the bullpen since his Vanderbilt days is during his stints with the White Sox, primarily during the 2016 season when he made eight relief appearances. Fulmer was awful in that short sample size, surrendering 11 runs in 11.2 innings during the second half of 2016, walking seven hitters and hitting a pair as well.

2018 should be the deciding factor in the youngsters future role with the White Sox, and it will probably start with him in the rotation, whether or not his numbers justify the move.

As of yesterday, Fulmer is more concerned with making pitches and being a part of the White Sox — in whatever capacity that may eventually be, “Being able to win, and being a part of winning on this team is the most important thing to me.”

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