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Lakeland, Fla. — He understands this is no way to make a grand first impression with Detroit Tigers fans.
Mike Fiers has started four Grapefruit League games. He has a 9.53 ERA. He also has a strained back that probably will put him on the disabled list ahead of Opening Day, which is set for Thursday against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Comerica Park.
“I want to get all of this straightened out, but when you’re hurting, it’s not easy to do,” Fiers said Monday in the Tigers clubhouse at TigerTown, which has been largely cleared as the moving van heads north with gear, uniforms, and equipment ahead of Thursday.
Fiers knows he strained his lower back earlier this spring during some ambitious weight-lifting. He did what players often do, particularly players hoping to either make the team, or in his case, make a splash with their new club.
He tried pitching through it. It didn’t go well.
He was often wild and often bashed because he was off the mark with pitches that led to hitters’ counts and to some natural consequences.
“I think I made it (the strain) last a little longer,” said Fiers, 32, and a right-handed starter the Tigers added during the offseason, after he last pitched for the Astros in 2017. “I could tell it wasn’t right. I wasn’t extending, throwing the ball like I was.
“Your whole body doesn’t feel right. Your timing’s off.”
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The Tigers dropped him from official starts. He has been getting the back treated and throwing at intervals supervised by trainers and by pitching coach Chris Bosio.
“I think taking a step back really helped,” said Fiers, who was a free agent when the Tigers welcomed him to Detroit on a one-year deal worth $6 million.
Fiers will throw four or five innings Tuesday at TigerTown and then will join the team in Detroit for Opening Day. But while he will be in uniform, it’s likely he’ll be on the disabled list, at least briefly. The Tigers need only 12 pitchers in the early going and they’re not inclined to rush Fiers.
“Amazing, I feel good,” he said Monday, saying Tuesday’s stint will be geared to building a pitch-count he hopes will reach 60 or 70.
Then, he hopes, he’ll begin throwing with some of the competency the Tigers thought they were getting when they brought him aboard last December.