Fiers steps into role as leader, while listening

July 15th, 2020

OAKLAND -- The A’s have no shortage of talented starting pitchers. But of the five hurlers expected to comprise the A’s starting rotation, is by far the most experienced.

Entering his 10th big league season, Fiers does not bring the heat with a fastball that reaches triple digits like Frankie Montas. He doesn’t feature a devastating slider like Jesús Luzardo. When it comes to leading this young staff, though, A’s manager Bob Melvin has no doubt that Fiers is the man for the job.

“He’s ended up being really good for this team,” Melvin said of Fiers, whom the A’s acquired from the Tigers in a 2018 trade. “With young starters on the staff, to have a veteran like him that has done just about everything -- he doesn’t throw 100 mph and he’s got two no-hitters under his belt. He’s fit in so well here and has been a great resource for our guys.

“I can’t say enough about not only the performance we’ve gotten out of him but also the leadership qualities.”

The A’s held Fiers back a couple of days following the start of Summer Camp as a precautionary measure after the right-hander had spent the previous three months working out with Luzardo, who tested positive for COVID-19 and is currently away from the club. But having thrown 50- to 60-pitch live batting practices on a regular basis in Florida during the shutdown, Fiers doesn’t feel like his delayed start to camp has him too far behind.

Fiers, who was the club’s Opening Day starter in 2019, said he expects to be built up by this year’s July 24 opener and will be ready to repeat the honor if called upon again this season.

“I’m gonna try to get as ready as I can. I feel like I’m ready right now,” Fiers said before Tuesday's workout at the Coliseum. “It’s all about what day I land on. It’s a short season so we have to put the guys that are ready right away. Every game is like a playoff game. We have to be ready to go.”

After throwing a bullpen session on Monday, Fiers will pitch in a sim game on Thursday at the Coliseum. He’s also expected to pitch in one of the club’s two exhibition games against the Giants, which are scheduled for July 20-21.

Though Fiers is an established veteran, coming off a career year in which he went 15-4 with a 3.90 ERA over 184 2/3 innings, he isn’t necessarily limiting his role to just offering advice to younger pitchers on the staff. He’s also looking to pick the brains of rookies like Luzardo and A.J. Puk -- Oakland’s No. 3 prospect per MLB Pipeline, who is also expected to join the rotation this year -- for ways to improve his own game.

“I know there’s not much experience, but the stuff they have is like veteran stuff,” Fiers said. “It’s all about putting it together. These guys have the talent to pitch a full year and dominate. For me, I’m looking at them for new things as well. Trying to pick up little things as well.

“It’s a team effort. I definitely see myself as a veteran and a guy they can look up to, but we all help each other throughout the year. Teams that stick together like that go a long way.”