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Fiers leans on sense of humor after trade to A's

MLB.com @beckjason

ANAHEIM -- Mike Fiers hadn't presumably received his A's gear yet. Besides, he was still in the Tigers' clubhouse, working out at Angel Stadium ahead of a flight to Oakland and his upcoming first start for the A's. So he improvised, writing "A's" on a piece of tape and sticking it on his cap.

He has been through the trade process before. As the Tigers' rebuilding project continues and Fiers moves on, having been dealt earlier Monday for two players to be named, the best way to approach it was with some humor and an embrace of his new situation.

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ANAHEIM -- Mike Fiers hadn't presumably received his A's gear yet. Besides, he was still in the Tigers' clubhouse, working out at Angel Stadium ahead of a flight to Oakland and his upcoming first start for the A's. So he improvised, writing "A's" on a piece of tape and sticking it on his cap.

He has been through the trade process before. As the Tigers' rebuilding project continues and Fiers moves on, having been dealt earlier Monday for two players to be named, the best way to approach it was with some humor and an embrace of his new situation.

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"You build so many relationships and friendships, every one of the players here, the coaching staff, the training staff, just everybody," Fiers said Monday afternoon. "Just that bond you build throughout a season, you're with these guys every day starting in mid-February. … Gotta build new relationships and say goodbye to old ones."

He just spent the weekend in Oakland with the Tigers, trying to beat the A's. Now he's tasked with helping them.

Moreover, a year after winning a World Series title with the Astros, he's tasked with trying to derail their run at a repeat.

"It's maybe a little weird," he admitted, "but at the same time, I want to get back. You always have that little chip on your shoulder if a team lets you go and doesn't feel like you can help them anymore, so you go help another team and go after them and show them what they're missing."

Fiers wasn't tendered a contract from the Astros last fall when the Tigers came calling. Detroit general manager Al Avila, who knew Fiers from his days growing up in South Florida, pounced on his free agency with a one-year offer.

Avila knew Fiers could provide veteran leadership and badly needed innings for a rebuilding club with an uncertain pitching staff. At the same time, he also knew that if the Tigers could get the best out of Fiers, they could get a prospect or two in trade return.

As Fiers closed the door on his Tigers tenure after just 21 starts, both teams benefited. The 33-year-old right-hander recaptured market value with a 3.48 ERA, 3.35 strikeout-to-walk ratio and career-best 3.1 Wins Above Replacement by baseball-reference calculations.

"I can't say enough about the coaching staff here and all the players that have helped me along the way," Fiers said. "I can't do this all on my own."

At the same time, Fiers knew there was a strong possibility his time in Detroit would end this way if he pitched well. Much as he hoped the Tigers would defy expectations and make a race out of the American League Central, their midseason drop made his value to other clubs all the more important.

"We're losing a really good pitcher; he did a lot of good things here for us," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Now we have to fill a hole. But I'm happy for him. He gets an opportunity to pitch in the playoffs and try to win a World Series ring."

Said Fiers: "At the start of the year, everybody wants to play on a team that's going to go to the playoffs and have a shot to play for a World Series. You want to contribute to a winning team. For me to get traded over there, it's bittersweet. You play for these guys all year, but now you want to go and compete for all these new guys. My heart's going to be with them. This is a team that wanted me to pitch for them and pitch in a playoff race, so I'm going to give everything I've got for these guys."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers, Mike Fiers