Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Fiers: 'We have to focus on 2020'

Kemp homers as four 2B candidates see game action
@MartinJGallegos
February 23, 2020

MESA, Ariz. -- A pitcher’s mound can often serve as an oasis from the outside noise. After an offseason in which controversy surrounded his name, Mike Fiers took the mound of dirt at Hohokam Stadium and found peace. Fiers picked up where he left off from a career year in

MESA, Ariz. -- A pitcher’s mound can often serve as an oasis from the outside noise. After an offseason in which controversy surrounded his name, Mike Fiers took the mound of dirt at Hohokam Stadium and found peace.

Fiers picked up where he left off from a career year in 2019 with a perfect two innings against the Giants. The right-hander was efficient, which is usually the case when he’s at his best, throwing 12 of his 19 pitches for strikes as he retired all six batters faced, including a strikeout of Wilmer Flores with a fastball on the inner half.

“He looked really good. Used all his pitches,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said after the A's 5-3 split-squad loss to the Giants. “First time out, a little against the grain. He had a good changeup and a good feel for where it was going. Two quick innings. That was nice to see.”

Being his first time on the mound since the fallout from the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal that involved him making the allegations about Houston’s system public, Fiers said he has no time to worry about the backlash he’s been receiving with the regular season approaching.

“I try to put it behind me. We have to focus on 2020. Our season is coming up pretty quick, so we need to focus on baseball and get ready,” Fiers said. “In the past, we’ve started off slow and it’s halted us late in the year. The earlier we can get ready, the better off we’re going to be.”

The response was nothing but positive from the announced crowd of 6,017 fans at Hohokam, providing a round of applause for Fiers when he was announced as the starter and again when he walked off the mound after finishing the second inning.

“Our fans know what he’s going through,” Melvin said. “They’re very aware.”

Coming off a season in which he tossed the second no-hitter of his career as part of a career-high 15 wins and 3.90 ERA, Fiers is likely to get the Opening Day nod at the Oakland Coliseum on March 26 against the Twins.

With his spot on the club secure, Fiers can put all his focus this spring on building up his endurance, expecting to go three innings his next time out. His stuff looked particularly crisp on Sunday, usually a rarity so early in spring, but Fiers credited his effort to begin his throwing program a little earlier than normal this offseason.

“I felt really good. I felt a little ahead of schedule this year,” Fiers said. “I threw a little more. Started earlier in the offseason and I think it’s paying off.”

Kemp goes boom

On a day in which stars like Marcus Semien, Matt Chapman and Matt Olson each made their Cactus League debut, it was newcomer Tony Kemp who made the loudest entrance.

Playing in his first game with the A’s since arriving from the Cubs via trade this offseason, Kemp hammered a pitch from Giants reliever Jandel Gustave over the right-field wall in the fifth.

Semien and Olson each drew a walk while Chapman went 1-for-2 with a single. All three were pulled from the game after three innings.

Second-base battle continues

Speaking of Kemp, his homer likely provided a nice boost in the A’s competition for the vacant second-base job. Kemp finished his day 2-for-3 as he also singled in the third.

Franklin Barreto saw action late in the game and went 0-for-2. Jorge Mateo and Vimael Machin played in the A’s 7-3 split-squad loss against the D-backs on Sunday, with Mateo going 0-for-3 and Machin 1-for-3 with a single.

"The one benefit of five split-squads is we have some extra games. Sometimes you’ll see guys starting. Sometimes you’ll see guys backing up,” Melvin said of the second-base candidates. “Sometimes backing up can be a little difficult, but that’s all we have to go on. Try to get them in there and take a look as much as we can. We’ll get everybody in there, to an extent. That’s the tough one.”

Up next

Left-hander Sean Manaea is expected to make his Cactus League debut as the starter for Monday's 12:05 p.m. PT tilt with the Brewers at Hohokam Stadium. Manaea has been making some tweaks to his slider this spring after receiving a special visit from Hall of Famer Randy Johnson early in camp.

Martin Gallegos covers the A's for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MartinJGallegos.