It appears to be bad news for A’s starter Mike Fiers. After Fiers underwent an MRI on Sunday, manager Bob Melvin said it doesn’t look like the veteran starter will be ready by Opening Day due to inflammation in the hip area.
“I would say it’s pretty difficult at this point,” Bob Melvin said Monday.
Melvin added Fiers will have a couple days off before they evaluate whether Fiers will be able to begin his throwing regimen again.
“It’s probably a long shot at this point, but if there’s anybody that has the potential to do it, it’s Mike and the fact that’s he’s been so durable and he seems to get up to speed pretty quickly,” Melvin said.
As far as a Fiers’ replacement goes, the A’s have options. The main one ideally being A.J. Puk.
Puk is coming off of shoulder surgery in 2020, which forced him to sit out of the entire regular season. But he arrived at spring training feeling great, even forgetting the fact he underwent the procedure.
Puk said he’s open to any role, including coming out of the bullpen. He posted a 3.18 ERA with 13 strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings of relief in 2019. Puk is scheduled to make his spring debut on Wednesday, Melvin said.
There is a slight concern if Puk will be stretched out in time for a starter role, but Melvin appears to have that figured out.
“Yeah some, but nowadays, whether you go five or six innings for a starter, so we wouldn’t push him too far, but if we felt like he if he could give us pitch-wise upwards of four or five innings,” Melvin said Monday. “Then you just maybe use a little bit more of a bullpen on that day. It’s hypothetical if everything goes well, and he performs well.”
Daulton Jefferies also has been named as a possibility to replace Fiers in the rotation if Puk isn't quite up to speed. In three games this spring, he has struck out seven in six innings.
The 25-year-old made his major league debut in 2020 against the Texas Rangers. It was a rather forgettable outing, but he’s been impressing the A’s with his new slider -- the pitch he needs to add to his arsenal and one that added to his confidence.