The Cincinnati Reds claimed right-hander Carson Fulmer off waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday, a pitcher who fits the Reds' profile with high spin rates and elite movement on his cutter.
Fulmer, 27, has struggled in the Major Leagues with a 6.34 ERA in 105 career innings. He made 10 combined appearances for the Detroit Tigers and Baltimore Orioles during the 2020 season, yielding five runs and eight hits in 10 1/3 innings (4.35 ERA) while striking out 11 and walking five.
He was designated for assignment last week when the Pirates needed to create space on their 40-man roster. The Reds had an opening on their 40-man roster when Joey Votto was placed on the Injured List following a positive COVID-19 test.
Fulmer played in college at Vanderbilt, but his freshman season was one year after Reds pitching coach Derek Johnson left for professional baseball. Fulmer was the No. 8 pick in the 2015 MLB Draft, taken three picks before Reds rookie catcher Tyler Stephenson.
"What we’re looking at is probably a combination of things," Johnson said last month about the Reds' pitching acquisitions. "It’s ‘OK, this is what his fastball does,’ whether it’s velocity, whether it’s spin rate, whether it’s a vertical profile, whether it’s a horizontal profile. How does it move? What’s it doing in flight? Then you’re kind of stacking that up against the video. It’s, ‘OK, how do we maximize that?"
CHECKING ON VOTTO: It’s been a week since Joey Votto played in his last spring training game and the Reds announced with his permission that he tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday.
People who have checked in with Votto say he’s feeling OK.
“He seems to be doing well,” former teammate Jay Bruce told New York reporters. “Joey definitely holds a special place for me when it comes to a former teammate, a very, very close friend. We came up together, but in a lot of ways, I do look at him as a mentor and someone that I learned so much from. He is an incredible player and historic player in a lot of ways.”
Reds pitcher Amir Garrett said that he and his wife were diagnosed with COVID-19 in November and that he texted Votto to share some of the tips that he learned.
“It’s not something I take lightly,” Garrett said. “I gave him a text yesterday and was like, if he needed anything, I could drop it off at his front doorstep or whatever, gave him little tips that helped me and my wife get over it. With this, we don’t really know too much about it. Everybody says they know, but we don’t know.
“I just tried to give him some little tips that may have helped me or my wife. A lot of water, fluids, zinc, whatever. I was just reaching out to him to let him know. It sucks, but sheesh, yeah. For me personally, after I had it, I felt kind of a relief after because I didn’t know what it was about. Even though I beat it, other people might not be as lucky as me. I got it out of the way. I don’t wish it on anybody.”
Bell said Saturday that there was no timetable for Votto’s return, but he is not allowed to return to the team’s facility until March 20 at the earliest. The Reds have been playing Scott Heineman, Cheslor Cuthbert and Nicky Delmonico at first base in his absence.
Bruce, who is a non-roster invitee in Yankees camp, raved about the influence Votto had on his career.
“He was a few years older than me and we really kind of got up at the same time and took our lumps together,” Bruce said. “He taught me so much. He taught me about work, about routine, about preparation, about consistency. I can’t say enough about what he taught me. I feel very, very fortunate to have been able to watch him on a daily basis for so long. He’s just an incredible player; he really is. Him and I are very, very close. We stay in touch. We still talk. We have a pretty consistent text thread going. Obviously, I hope he’s doing well and it sounds like he is.”
REVISED RULES: After the first two weeks of Cactus League games, some of the rules will change for the remainder of the spring:
• Teams are no longer allowed to roll innings before recording three outs.
• There will be a three-batter minimum rule for all pitchers, unless it’s the end of an inning or a pitcher has an injury.
• Games are scheduled for nine innings, but they can be shortened to seven or eight innings upon mutual agreement of both managers. There will be no extension on games, so if the home team is winning after the top of the ninth inning, the game is over.
WELCOME BACK: The Reds signed Nick Howard, their first-round pick from the 2014 Draft (No. 19 overall), to a minor-league deal on Friday. He will report to minor-league camp with the rest of the minor leaguers next month.
Howard, who will turn 28 in April, was released by the Reds in June 2019. He signed with the Kansas City Royals and spent two years in their organization without pitching in a game because of the canceled 2020 minor-league season.
He’s made only three starts above A-ball in his minor-league career.