Chicago – It’s not like he’ll be carrying any of this bad mental baggage with him when he takes the mound against the White Sox on Sunday.
First start, new team – it’s a clean slate for right-hander Mike Fiers.
This will be his first regular season start since Sept. 13 when he was pulled out of the Astros rotation and ultimately left off their post-season roster. In his final three starts last season, he was tagged for 22 runs and 25 hits in 12 innings.
His spring training with the Tigers, with whom he signed a one-year deal worth $6 million, was derailed by lower back stiffness, which forced him to start the season on the disabled list.
That's the cloudy backdrop for Fiers’ Tigers debut.
“You want to impress these guys,” he said. “Whatever you’ve done in the past is in the past. To this point, I just want to go out and help these guys on the field. Just give it everything you have and show them you are here to compete with them.”
Fiers made two starts in Lakeland after the Tigers came north and has been stretched out to 80 pitches. He said it’s all systems go.
“I hope so,” he said. “I felt really good the last time out. I just have to focus on myself and focus on what I can do out there. You can’t worry about who’s in the box or the environment you are in.
“It’s all about me and making my pitches, getting early outs, getting ground balls and minimizing damage.”
The forecast for Sunday – much like it’s been all season – is cold, high of 35 degrees with 10 mph winds. Not optimal conditions for a pitcher getting over lower back issues.
“All we can do is watch and see,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “If he can pitch, he can pitch. We’re going to have to play in this weather for a little while longer. Sure we’re concerned with the back issue coming into cold weather.
“But he says he’s fine and ready to go. He’s a veteran and he’s pitched in cold weather before and he’s pitched with this back thing before.”
Fiers spent one year pitching at the University of the Cumberlands, an NAIA school in Kentucky. He knows cold.
“We were playing in February,” he said. “It was kind of like it is here. We’d have to get up early to take the tarp off the field and break up the ice just to be able to play that night. I’ve pitched in cold weather before. When you are warm and you are pitching, as opposed to just sitting on the bench, it helps out a lot.
“I don’t think anyone wants to play in this weather. But it’s not about that. It’s about pitching your game and pitching to the hitters’ weaknesses.”