LAKELAND, Fla. -- While the Tigers broke camp and headed for Detroit, with a stop at Tropicana Field along the way, Mike Fiers spent Tuesday morning on the back fields at Tigertown, pitching 4 1/3 innings in a Minor League intrasquad game.It won't likely head off the Tigers' expected move
LAKELAND, Fla. -- While the Tigers broke camp and headed for Detroit, with a stop at Tropicana Field along the way, Mike Fiers spent Tuesday morning on the back fields at Tigertown, pitching 4 1/3 innings in a Minor League intrasquad game.
It won't likely head off the Tigers' expected move to place Fiers on the disabled list to begin the season, but it at least gets the right-hander progressing toward an eventual return. The outing was similar to a rehab start for Fiers, whose early-spring back issues affected his performance in Grapefruit League play.
Fiers tried to pitch through the back issue this month, but a rough outing on March 15 against the Braves led the Tigers to shelve him until the back discomfort quieted down. Tuesday marked his first game back.
Fiers, pitching for Triple-A Toledo against a squad of mid-level players, had a strong opening inning before running into trouble with an unearned run in the second. He recovered for a scoreless third with a couple groundouts before a leadoff walk set up an RBI double down the left-field line in the fourth. He was spotting his breaking ball for strikes early before falling behind hitters later.
Fiers faced one batter in the fifth inning, inducing a groundout on his 62nd and final pitch of the game. He yielded two runs (one earned) on two hits with two walks and four strikeouts.
:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::
The Tigers signed Fiers to a one-year, $6 million contract last December after the Astros nontendered him. The 32-year-old right-hander is expected to provide a veteran presence in Detroit's rotation, but his injury opened a spot for Daniel Norris to open the season in the rotation.
Norris is scheduled to pitch in a Minor League game at Tigertown on Wednesday before joining the team in Detroit for Opening Day festivities on Thursday. He'll pitch next week when the Tigers need a fifth starter, either Tuesday or Wednesday depending on whether Jordan Zimmermann makes his second start on four or five days' rest.
While Fiers stretched out his arm in the Minor League start, reliever Johnny Barbato pitched in the same game as he tries to work his way back to action following elbow soreness. He pitched a scoreless inning on one hit with two strikeouts, throwing 13 total pitches.
The Tigers begin the 2018 season with an Interleague series against the Pirates at Comerica Park. Jordan Zimmermann gets the nod for Thursday's Opening Day start, live on MLB.TV at 1:10 p.m. ET.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.