Michael Fulmer admits it took some time before he felt like a professional pitcher. In fact, he can pinpoint the exact outing when he noticed a turnaround.
"It was the last start before the All-Star break against Rome [on June 14]," said the Class A Savannah right-hander. "I went out threw 7 1/3 shutout [innings] and only gave up three hits. So I sat down with [pitching coach Frank Viola] afterwards and asked, 'What did I do differently tonight?'
"Ever since, I've been trying to go out there every start, trying to recreate those results, knowing what it takes to be successful."
The results bear that out. The Mets' No. 8 prospect allowed just one run on four hits and three walks over five innings Monday to help the Sand Gnats beat Lexington, 4-3.
Fulmer (7-5) is now 4-2 with a 1.53 ERA in his last 10 starts, a stretch that started with that gem on June 14. That's good enough for the second-best ERA among Class A pitchers during that span and seventh-best among all Minor Leaguers.
If those numbers weren't impressive enough, compare them to the statistics from his first 10 starts -- 3-3 with a 3.92 ERA -- and it's easy to see why the 19-year-old is more pleased with the second half of his full-season debut than the first.
"I do feel like I'm actually a pitcher now," the 2011 first-round pick said. "At the beginning of the year, it was pretty much just like high school -- the walks were up, I felt like I was just throwing the ball. But ever since, the changeup's coming along, and I'm doing a better job of locating to the spot, especially in tough situations."
Fulmer, who features a five-pitch repertoire, did have his fair share of tight moments in Monday's victory, though.
After allowing a walk, a single and a stolen base in the third inning, he had two runners in scoring position with only one out. He escaped by striking out Nolan Fontana and getting Zachary Johnson to fly out to center.
In the fourth, Matt Duffy singled and swiped second before Fulmer recorded an out. But again, he was able to strike out Brandon Meredith, pick Duffy off at second and get Jay Austin to ground out to second to escape the inning unscathed.
The Legends squeezed out their lone run in the fifth on Chan Moon's RBI single. Fulmer avenged the tally by fanning Fontana and Johnson to end the inning and his outing after 88 pitches.
Although the start was a little shorter than he would have liked, the Oklahoma native -- who tied a season high with his three free passes -- wasn't too irked by an outing that could have easily gone the other way.
"It was a little humid out, and I certainly let a few pitches get away from me there," Fulmer said. "But overall, I thought the fastball and changeup were there when I needed them. When it got down to it, I just bared down and got the outs that I needed."
After officially crossing the 100-inning threshold -- he's at 102 2/3 to be precise -- the Mets organization could soon curtail their young hurler's season soon.
And what a first season it would be. After Monday, Fulmer currently has a 2.54 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP. Those numbers compare favorably to fellow 2011 first-rounders from Oklahoma, Dylan Bundy (1.92, 0.85 between Class A Delmarva and Class A Advanced Frederick) and Archie Bradley (3.86, 1.23 for Class A South Bend), both of whom rank among MLB.com's top 15 prospects.
Because of those numbers, Fulmer wants to keep his successful season going for as long as he can.
"They haven't told me anything about an innings limit," he said. "Hopefully, they don't shut me down too soon here. I'm feeling great really. When they tell me it's done, then it's done obviously, but I want to keep pitching for as long as I can."