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Fiers gets A's Opening Day call in Japan

@JaneMLB
March 9, 2019

MESA, Ariz. -- Mike Fiers has spent the majority of his career as a back-end starter. He’s been non-tendered twice and left off his team’s postseason roster twice. Now he’s an Opening Day starter. The A’s will turn to Fiers when they christen the regular season against the Mariners on

MESA, Ariz. -- Mike Fiers has spent the majority of his career as a back-end starter. He’s been non-tendered twice and left off his team’s postseason roster twice. Now he’s an Opening Day starter.

The A’s will turn to Fiers when they christen the regular season against the Mariners on March 20 at the Tokyo Dome. Right-hander Marco Estrada will get the second game in action across the Pacific.

“You’re one of 30 guys to start a big league season, and that’s really cool,” Fiers said.

The right-hander has pitched in parts of eight big league seasons, but this is the first such honor for him.

“He’s really relishing it because this is the first time he’s gonna be put in that spot,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He was the first guy we signed back for a reason, and this is one of the reasons, so I know he’s pretty excited about it, and he did a nice job for us last year.”

The A’s acquired Fiers on Aug. 6 at a time when their rotation depth was depleted and they longed for an innings-eater. Fiers gave them just that and more, pitching to a 3.74 ERA in 10 games, nine of them starts.

The A’s went 8-1 in his starting assignments on their way to the playoffs.

“It turned out to be really big, because that’s what you hope for when you bring a guy in, and you try not to put too much pressure on him,” Melvin said. “Seemed like every game he went out there, we won, and for a team in a position that we were, that ends up being a huge pickup.”

The A’s left Fiers off their postseason roster in favor of an all-bullpen approach for the American League Wild Card Game. The disappointment that accompanied the team’s decision was familiar: Just one year prior, the Astros didn’t include Fiers on their playoff roster en route to the World Series.

Houston non-tendered Fiers, and Oakland did the same this winter, later reeling him back in on a two-year, $14.1 million deal on Christmas Eve.

“Everything you saw from [the A's] is what you got when you play with them,” Fiers said. “Facing them wasn’t easy, one through nine. They did everything. Just a hard, grinding team, and that’s what you want to be part of as a competitor.”

Fiers, 33, has been part of headline-grabbing pitching staffs over the years. In Houston, he called Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel rotation mates. With the Brewers, who drafted Fiers in the 22nd round in 2009, he pitched behind Zack Greinke and Yovani Gallardo.

He watched all go about Opening Day starts with ease.

“They were just very calm, collective and just really confident in themselves to go out there and treat it like any other day,” Fiers said. “Obviously, it’s a special day, day one of the season, especially with the hope we have for the season as the A’s … but just go out there and pitch and be yourself.”

Fiers finished 2018 with a 3.56 ERA across 172 innings. He averaged fewer than two walks per nine innings, and his fly-ball tendencies made him a perfect fit for the Coliseum.

The A’s are hoping Estrada, signed to a one-year, $4 million contract, benefits in the same way. Lefty Brett Anderson and right-hander Daniel Mengden are penciled in behind them, with the fifth spot still up for grabs.

“Every time I go out there on the mound, I feel like our team has the best chance to win,” Fiers said. “That’s my confidence. I don’t think it’s about what order I’m in or what day I’m pitching, it’s just whatever day I’m out there they have the confidence that I’m going to go out there and give them a quality start and give them a chance to win.”

Fiers will also likely pitch the stateside rendition of Opening Day at the Coliseum on March 28 against the Angels. Right-hander Kendall Graveman, now with the Cubs, drew the assignment in Oakland in each of the previous two seasons.

“When [Fiers] came back here, he was really hoping he was a guy that would be considered for that,” Melvin said, “and certainly with the guys that we have, he is the man for the job.”

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB.