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Despite struggles, Tigers trust veteran Fiers

Right-hander yields 5 runs in tough outing vs. Braves
Special to MLB.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- It took Mike Fiers 31 pitches to get an out on Thursday in the Tigers' 8-1 Grapefruit League loss to the Braves, and one of the pitches was a self-described "35-foot curveball" on a full count with the bases loaded.

"I don't think I've ever thrown a pitch like that," said Fiers, who gave up five runs in four innings. "It wasn't a great pitch. I wish I could have that one back, but it happened."

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- It took Mike Fiers 31 pitches to get an out on Thursday in the Tigers' 8-1 Grapefruit League loss to the Braves, and one of the pitches was a self-described "35-foot curveball" on a full count with the bases loaded.

"I don't think I've ever thrown a pitch like that," said Fiers, who gave up five runs in four innings. "It wasn't a great pitch. I wish I could have that one back, but it happened."

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The pitch was bad enough to prompt a full-scale conference on the mound to see if Fiers was injured. He wasn't, but his next pitch hit Ronald Acuna, forcing in another run. Acuna later hit a two-run homer off Fiers, who gave up four hits and three walks and hit two batters in four innings.

"As soon as you get on that mound, these guys are ready to attack you and pound you as hard as they can," Fiers said. "So I've got to come out and attack them as well. To come out passive and try to feel out where my ball is going, I can't do that. I've got to be ready to go."

The 32-year-old right-hander was in the Astros' starting rotation until the middle of September last season, and he actually led the World Series champions in starts with 28.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

After posting the Majors' highest team ERA in 2017 (5.36), the Tigers signed Fiers to a one-year, $6 million contract in December. There was never much thought about him not being in their rotation, and manager Ron Gardenhire still expects him to be.

"We've got a couple weeks left here, less than a couple weeks, so for his confidence and our confidence, yeah, he needs to [show something]," Gardenhire said. "He knows it and we know it. It's not like, 'If [he doesn't] do well in his next start ...' but at the end of the day, when we get down to where we have to make some decisions, we're going with the guys who are getting it done.

"But he's a veteran and we trust him. He's just misfiring right now. Hopefully we'll see better results next time."

Fiers has a 9.53 ERA in 11 1/3 innings, having given up four home runs while walking eight and striking out seven.

"I haven't pitched well at all," Fiers said. "You have one bad inning, and it affects your whole outing. So I can't keep coming out and saying every time it's the first inning that's getting me. I need to clean that up and be more aggressive in the first."

Video: DET@NYM: Fiers K's Guillorme swinging to end 1st

Fiers will have two more spring starts.

"I don't think I've ever had a great spring, but ... I don't know what it is, me trying to push it too hard before the season starts or the way these guys attack pitchers in the spring or whatever it is," Fiers said. "I don't think I'm putting too much emphasis on what the hitters are doing. It's just me throwing more strikes."

"Maybe he's putting too much pressure on himself," Gardenhire said. "You wouldn't think that would be the case with a veteran, but this guy wants to pitch. He wants to be here."

Dick Scanlon is a contributor to MLB.com.

Detroit Tigers, Mike Fiers