Tigers’ Fulmer expected to return for start vs. Rangers

The Detroit Tigers should be getting a valued member of their rotation back when a three-game series opens against the Texas Rangers on Monday in Arlington, Texas.

All-Star right-hander Michael Fulmer (10-9, 3.59 ERA) is on the disabled list with ulnar neuritis but has been performing his in-between-starts routine with the intent to return against Texas.

It would be a welcome sight for the Tigers. The last time Fulmer started at Globe Life Park in August 2016, he threw a four-hit shutout.

However, Fulmer struggled a bit in his last start, allowing seven runs in six innings.

Fulmer will square off with Texas left-hander Martin Perez (6-10, 5.18), who is coming off of his strongest start of the year.

After having his start moved up to accommodate Andrew Cashner’s stiff neck, Perez shut the Mets down on Wednesday. He allowed just one run — a solo homer from Wilmer Flores — and three hits in eight innings, the first time since Aug. 2, 2015, that Perez had thrown that many innings.

The Rangers could use another performance like that as they try to jockey for position in the American League wild-card race. They’re coming off a series win over the Houston Astros, and another series win over the Tigers could prove extremely valuable as the calendar churns through August.

“That’s the name of this game,” Rangers pitcher Andrew Cashner said. “It’s such a long season, if you can win series you usually come out on top in the end.”

Detroit is searching for bullpen answers right now.

Moving Shane Greene to the closer’s role removed a key part of the equation since Tigers manager Brad Ausmus was using the right-hander to get critical outs anywhere from the fifth through eighth innings.

“Someone is going to have to step up and take that (setup) job,” Ausmus said after Bruce Rondon was eliminated from the list of candidates by getting optioned to Triple-A Toledo. “Right now, it will depend on who is pitching well and how the matchups look.”

Rondon threw nine pitches, eight out of the strike zone, and one of the two batters he walked was trying to sacrifice. Ausmus demoted him right after the game.

“Yeah, you have to take the out in that situation when they are giving it to you,” Ausmus said.

Greene was being overused as the setup/critical out guy on his way to 80 games or more, but with Detroit having a dearth of save opportunities, Ausmus finds himself having to use his closer in non-save situations just to get him work.

Drew Ver Hagen was facing demotion with the return of Fulmer to the active roster but the subtraction of Rondon means he will shift from the rotation to the bullpen if Fulmer is ready Monday.