Fulmer returns as Tigers host White Sox

DETROIT — Right-hander Michael Fulmer returns to the mound Friday night against the Chicago White Sox for the Detroit Tigers, who are hopeful that rest has healed his sore left oblique and his two main pitches — fastball and slider.

Fulmer (3-9, 4.50 ERA) has not started since before the All-Star break, on July 14. He strained his oblique throwing a bullpen session and was placed on the disabled list July 20.

He made two rehab starts with high-Class A Lakeland, striking out 11 in six scoreless innings, but more important his fastball was up to 98 mph and his slider had the sharp tilt it displayed when he was successful.

Fulmer’s fastball was down some 2-4 mph for most of the season and he has struggled to maintain a consistent slider.

Manager Ron Gardenhire and the Tigers’ brass decided that with Detroit having lost two starters to injury in the last week it made sense to dispense with another rehab start and have Fulmer pitch in a major league game instead.

“It may have been a blessing in disguise,” Fulmer said. He had determined just before the injury that his arm slot was too high and was getting solid results from dropping it slightly before the oblique strain. He will be limited to about 70 pitches in his return.

Right-hander Artie Lewicki experienced elbow soreness after starting against the White Sox last week and it was determined Wednesday that he needs a second Tommy John operation.

“His ligament is very loose,” Gardenhire said. “It’s not going to heal, so he has a decision to make. It’s a big decision, but for him, it’s the right decision, with his age and everything.”

Lewicki had Tommy John surgery in 2012 while at Virginia but returned in 2014 to help pitch to the finals of the College World Series. He was drafted by Detroit in the eighth round and has worked his way up through the minors.

In two seasons, Lewicki was 0-3 with a 5.14 ERA in 17 games.

Fulmer pitched 5 1/3 innings of shutout ball in a win over Chicago in his only appearance against the White Sox this season. In his three seasons, Fulmer is 2-1 with a 3.79 ERA in six starts.

Chicago will pitch right-hander Reynaldo Lopez (4-9, 4.72 ERA), who has pitched well against Detroit but with limited success. He has allowed 10 runs in seven innings in his last two starts.

Lopez has started five times against the Tigers, four of them this year, when he is 0-1 with a 3.24 ERA. In his five starts, Lopez is 1-1 with a 3.56 ERA.

The White Sox were again without manager Rick Renteria, still back in Chicago getting checked out for lightheadedness. There is no timetable for his return and bench coach Joe McEwing is running the team in his absence.

“I talked to him this morning, and he’s doing well,” McEwing said. “He’s in good spirits and sounded great.”

Renteria was likely listening Thursday while James Shields was getting knocked around in Detroit’s 7-2 victory. Shields gave up three home runs in the sixth to Nicholas Castellanos, Mikie Mahtook and Ronny Rodriguez.

Right-hander Ryan Burr made his major league debut in the game, getting four outs and striking out two batters.

“You think about it your whole life, and then it happens,” Burr said. “It’s crazy. I thought I was gonna balk when I came in. I was shaking a little bit.”

Adam Engel finished the game 2-for-4, with two doubles. Engel now has 20 multi-hit games — including four games with multiple extra-base hits — for the White Sox. He is closing in on a .270 batting average since the All-Star break.

“His at-bats have gotten so much better,” McEwing said. “He’s more consistent on a daily basis. You don’t see the gaps from day to day. It’s more consistent every single day. He’s making better contact, harder contact, and he’s putting himself in a good position right now.”