Athletics

Mike Fiers putting Astros cheating scandal behind him, moving forward

Mike Fiers putting Astros cheating scandal behind him, moving forward

Mike Fiers arrived at the A’s media availability on Zoom Tuesday wearing a hoodie and removed his facemask -- but it wasn’t the one he had made for the team sporting his infamous facial hair.

The facial hair caused national attention, and that spotlight is something the A’s veteran pitcher is used to. He was the one who held the national spotlight after unearthing the Houston Astros of their cheating ways back in November. Fiers revealed in an interview with The Athletic last year that his former team would steal signs electronically during their 2017 World Series run. 

He’s ready to move on from that now, however.

“Yeah, we’re not worried about that,” Fiers told reporters on Tuesday. “We’re focused on us as the A’s -- there are a lot more teams than Houston.”

“Right now, if we’re worried about that, we’re thinking in the wrong thought process going forward. We’re trying to get ready for the season, we know what we have to do to do that. Being out here, competing, practicing together and getting everything right for Day 1.”

The A’s will play the Astros this season, as they usually do, but this time around, it will feel quite different. The combination of no fans in the stands and months going by could make it feel strange.

“Maybe, I don’t know,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter -- I guess it’s not something to think about, like I said, just the game of baseball is what we need to think about right now.”

And it appears that’s working in his favor.

He trained in the offseason/hiatus quite a bit -- in between creating TikToks and playing “Call of Duty.” And although he showed up late as a precautionary measure after training partner Jesús Luzardo tested positive for coronavirus, he has looked good, according to A’s manager Bob Melvin.

“[Fiers] has proved that he ended up being really good for this team,” Melvin said Tuesday.

“Probably not as far along as a couple of guys at this point based on the fact that he had to sit down for a couple days, but if anybody could make it up in a hurry it’s him.”

Melvin also said he watched Fiers’ bullpen yesterday and was able to get a different view, complimenting his sinker and a late cutter.

[RELATED: Khris Davis ready to move on from down 2019 season]

“You understand without the velocity, why he continues to be so consistent, and so good and is always looking to add some stuff on," Melvin added.

Fiers looks to be a part of the A’s starting rotation this season and said he will be pitching against the Giants next week during their scheduled exhibition games.

A's takeaways: What you might've missed from fiery 7-2 win vs. Astros

A's takeaways: What you might've missed from fiery 7-2 win vs. Astros

BOX SCORE

Things got heated in the bottom of the seventh inning in the A’s 7-2 win Sunday over the Houston Astros.

The A’s now are 12-4 on the season after sweeping the Astros with their ninth win in a row, and own a five-game lead in the AL West.

The A’s bats looked great and got off to a hot start, thanks to a Robbie Grossman home run. Starting pitcher Jesús Luzardo earned his first big league win.

Here’s what you might have missed Sunday at the Coliseum.

Benches clear

In the bottom of the seventh, Ramón Laureano was hit by a pitch from Astros reliever Humberto Castellanos. As Laureano got to first base, Astros hitting coach Alex Cintron began saying something to him that didn't sit well with Oakland's outfielder.

While we’re not sure what was said, Laureano charged at Cintron.

Former A’s catcher Dustin Garneau grabbed Laureano before he could reach the Astros' dugout.

As a result, both Laureano and A’s catcher Austin Allen were ejected from the game. A’s pitching coach Scott Emerson escorted Laureano off the field.

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]
 

Not wasting any time

Remember how the A’s have had a history of taking a while in a season to get things started? Well, we could laugh at that now. History doesn’t always repeat itself.

In the bottom of the second inning, Grossman hit a solo shot to right field for his second homer of the season.

On Saturday, Marcus Semien also didn’t waste any time to make an impact of his own while working a 3-2 count in his first at-bat of the game. He hit a solo homer as well, giving the A's an early lead.

[RELATED: Benches clear in A's-Astros game after Laureano hit by pitch]

Luzardo is here to stay

Sunday marked Luzardo’s second career big-league start, and it went rather swimmingly.

He gave up a two-run homer to Yuli Gurriel in the top of the fourth, but other than that, he was pretty solid.

Through 5 2/3 innings, Luzardo struck out five, walked two, and gave up five hits and just two earned runs before giving the ball to Yusmeiro Petit in relief.

Luzardo’s first outing against the Texas Rangers was “terrific,” as A's manager Bob Melvin said. “Comes as advertised.”

He sure does.

A's, Astros benches clear after Ramon Laureano hit by pitch, taunted

A's, Astros benches clear after Ramon Laureano hit by pitch, taunted

Ramon Laureano had enough with the Houston Astros' antics.

The A's center fielder was hit by a pitch for the second time Sunday at the Coliseum, and he took exception, which ended up causing a benches-clearing brawl between the AL West rivals.

Most observers expected the series to get fiery, but not quite in this way.

After Astros reliever Humberto Castellanos hit Laureano in the bottom of the seventh inning, he had some words for the pitcher. When Laureano, who was hit three times in the series, reached first base, players and coaches in the Astros' dugout started chirping with him. It appears Houston's hitting coach, Alex Cintron, was the most vocal.

That's when Laureano darted toward the Astros' dugout, forcing his A's teammates to run across to the field to come to his defense.

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Former A's catcher Dustin Garneau stepped in front of Cintron and tackled Laureano before he could get to the Astros' hitting coach. The brawl split into two separate skirmishes, and eventually, Laureano was escorted back to the A's dugout.

The umpire threw Laureano out of the game. A's catcher Austin Allen also was ejected, but no Astros players and coaches were.

In the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic, 50-plus people converging for a brawl is not what Major League Baseball wants.

In light of the Astros' sign-stealing scandal that was uncovered over the offseason, the belief was that the A's might retaliate by hitting Houston batters. But in the A's three-game sweep that extended their winning streak to nine and AL West lead to five games, Oakland pitchers didn't hit Houston batters at all. Meanwhile, Astros pitchers plunked A's hitters four times.

Ironically, Astros reliever Brandon Bailey hit Laureano in the bottom of the fifth inning Sunday. The two players were traded for each other in 2017.

[RELATED: A's a lock to make playoffs, according to Fangraphs]

Both teams can expect to hear from the league office, and penalties for Laureano, Cintron and others surely will be handed down for causing the brawl.

For context, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Joe Kelly was suspended eight games earlier this season for throwing at Astros batters and causing the benches to clear.

The A's and Astros next play each other in Houston at the end of August. Despite whatever punishment MLB hands down, don't expect the bitterness between the sides to subside.