Cleveland starter hopes for hot start in cold weather

DETROIT — Michael Fulmer doesn’t change anything on cold, rainy days.

The Detroit Tigers right-hander will bundle up when it’s wet and chilly if he’s not pitching. On the mound, it’s a different story.

“The only question would be whether I wear sleeves or not,” he said. “I don’t wear sleeves, so that eliminates that.”

Weather permitting, the bare-armed Fulmer will oppose Cleveland’s Danny Salazar in the finale of a four-game series on Thursday afternoon. The weather forecast calls for rainy conditions and temperatures in the low to mid 40s.

Fulmer (2-1, 3.19 ERA) has not allowed more than three runs in any of his five starts this season but he’s gotten into some trouble in the early going. Among the 11 runs he’s allowed, nine have come during the first three innings.

“That’s weird, isn’t it? I couldn’t tell you. There’s no explanation for it,” he said. “I’ve just got to mix my pitches better and look to get outs from the get-go. My whole goal this season was to work on getting quicker outs, so that means throwing a few more fastballs and throwing more strikes.”

Fulmer has made 13 career starts at Comerica Park and posted a 3.00 ERA. He started four games against the Indians last season as a rookie and was 1-2 with a 6.98 ERA.

He has held opponents to a .198 average this season.

“I feel like once I see guys’ swings and read guys’ swings, I have a better game plan throughout the game,” he said. “That’s why a lot of my success is coming later in the game or the second and third time through the order. With that being said, I need to do a better job getting guys out the first time.”

Salazar (2-2, 4.34 ERA) has similar issues. All three of the homers he’s allowed and eight of the 15 runs he’s given up have come in the first inning.

“I just need to be a little more consistent, a little bit smarter with the pitches I use in the beginning of the game because that’s when I’m getting the damage,” he said. “I need to start mixing my pitches a little bit more.”

Salazar has a ratio of 13.03 strikeouts per nine innings, the best in the league. The tradeoff is he’s not getting deep into games. His last outing, when he pitched 6 1/3 innings in a victory over Seattle, was his longest this season.

“I like to pitch to contact but at the same time I strike a lot of people out, and that means I’m going to make a lot of pitches because there will be a lot of foul balls,” he said. “I wish I could get everybody out in three or four pitches. Normally, the first inning for me is 20 to 22 pitches. For other guys, that’s two innings, maybe three.”

An early May chill won’t bother Salazar, who is 3-4 with a 4.58 ERA in 12 starts against Detroit. The Indians will attempt to split the four-game series after collecting a 3-2 victory on Wednesday.

“I like to pitch in cold weather,” Salazar said. “I don’t mind it. The only thing is I just hope, if it’s going to be cold (and rainy), it starts on time.”