OAKLAND — The Oakland Athletics clubhouse is a laid back one. In one corner is catcher Jonathan Lucroy’s wall shrine, with a dollar bill, a drawing of a baseball backstop and posters — including a ‘hang in there’ kitty — on the wall, and tchotchkes — including a photo of himself and Sean Manaea after his no-hitter against Boston — set on a small glass shelf.
Across the way is Manaea’s locker, with a toy basketball hoop taped to the wall, alongside a paper scoresheet, with a masking tape free throw line on the carpet. It’s not a businesslike atmosphere; it’s more business casual.
That’s why, Lucroy said, his former battery mate with the Milwaukee Brewers, Mike Fiers — just acquired from the Detroit Tigers — will fit in easily. Fiers arrived at the Oakland Coliseum along with newly-acquired reliever Shawn Kelley ahead of Tuesday’s game against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“He’s laid back and easy-going,” Lucroy said. “He’ll be fine.”
At the same time, mananger Bob Melvin said, “he’s got some grit in him. He’s got some gamer in him.”
Fiers, whose start will push the rest of the rotation back a day to give them extra rest, came to the A’s from a Detroit Tigers team that was 19 games below .500. Now, he’s pitching for a club 21 games over.
“I’m honored, excited, just ready to pitch how I pitch and give everything I’ve got to this team that’s going for a playoff run,” said Fiers, who will start the second game of the series on Wednesday against Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw and a Dodgers team he no-hit in 2015. “I want to win. Everyone wants to win, I want to pitch against tough teams in a playoff race. This team’s giving me the opportunity to pitch for a winning ballclub.”
He had been rumored to be headed to Oakland at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, but the deal didn’t wind up happening.
“I was assuming I was going to be with Detroit the whole year,” Fiers said. “I wasn’t trying to put too much thought into it. I wasn’t really planning on going anywhere, and just focused on what I had to do there.”
Instead, the A’s managed to swap two players to be named later and cash considerations for Fiers on Monday, just after the team left the Bay Area following a sweep at Oakland’s hands.
When his teammates found out he was headed up to the Bay Area from Anaheim, where the Tigers were once the deal was consummated, they said he could no longer wear the Tigers Olde English D, so they affixed a piece of masking tape with a Sharpie’d A’s logo.
While he’s since gone green, Fiers isn’t as Bay Area-friendly as he was just five months ago, when he tried going vegan. That experiment lasted two weeks.
“In this game,” Fiers said on Tuesday, “you need to eat.”
Re-joining Lucroy — who’s served as a veteran anchor for a starting rotation that’s seen 12 different members — will be a boon for Fiers.
“I’ve caught him a couple times when he’s taken a no-hitter into the seventh,” Lucroy said.
“Lucroy’s known me from my days in Milwaukee, and that helps out a great deal,” Fiers said. “He already knows my plan of attack. I’ve faced him over the years when he was with Texas, so he knows what I do, and knows what I do well. He’s a student of the game, and I think that helps out huge.”
Fiers has been traded at the deadline before, when he went from Milwaukee to Houston. It was for the Astros that he threw his first career no-hitter against the Dodgers, in the midst of a run where he went 2-1 with a 3.32 ERA and a .197 batting average against.
This season, starting with a seven-innings, one-run, five-strikeout performance against the A’s on June 27 in Detroit, Fiers went 2-2 in seven starts with a 1.96 ERA and a .228 batting average against before arriving in Oakland. In 21 starts, he’s averaged more than 5 2/3 innings, and in 119 innings, he’s walked just 26.
Fiers said he sees his strengths as keeping hitters off balance and getting ahead in the count. As a fly ball pitcher at the Oakland Coliseum — with its ample foul ground and dead cold air at night in center field, the park should play to Fiers’s strengths, Lucroy said.
“He’s an innings eater, and he’s going to go out and give our team a chance to win every night,” said Lucroy, who caught Fiers from 2011 to 2015. “He’s a stopgap bridge to the bullpen. He will throw some innings for us, and he’s going to match up well with this ballpark. He’s a flyball pitcher. It’s a good pickup. He’ll do a good job here.”
He’ll add to a taxed rotation that, after a day off following the Dodgers series, will have just one more day off until Sept. 6.
“You look at the additions we’ve made, starting with Familia, they’ve been right on time,” Melvin said. “To make two more moves — savvy moves — after the deadline … to bring in Fiers, who’s one, been really tough on us, and two, having a really good year this year, we were going to need a fifth starter coming up here anyway, increases the depth. Some really good moves by the front office.”
Lucroy repeatedly said that Fiers’s most enduring quality is his competitiveness. With a team now in the playoff picture, and having won 23 of its last 33 games, that will play big.
“For me, that’s all you need,” Lucroy said. “He’s competitive. He can lock it in when he needs to, and that’s all that I really care about.”
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