OAKLAND — Halfway through his bullpen session on Tuesday, Oakland Athletics starter Mike Fiers turned to his right and did a little hand-jive with the same right hand he injured this weekend.
“I found it,” he told pitching coach Scott Emerson, smiling.
Fiers — who exited his last start after feeling numbness in his hand — had found his changeup. He threw it, and the rest of his pitches, out of both the windup and the stretch in a 35-pitch session on Tuesday, his first since the injury. Pending the results of his Tuesday MRI, he looks like he will make his next start.
Fiers has dealt with hand numbness several times, usually on his curveball, but also with his cutter. On his first pitch to the Texas Rangers’ Rougned Odor with two outs in the second inning on Saturday, he felt that shooting numbness in his right hand. Manager Bob Melvin and trainer Nick Paparesta went out to check on Fiers, but he stayed in the game, allowing a two-run homer to Odor.
After walking Delino DeShields and showing diminished velocity, Fiers was pulled. Initially, the fear was that the injury was nerve-releated, but the A’s have hope that it’s more likely muscular.
The 34-year-old righty has been the ace of the Oakland staff in Sean Manaea’s absence this season. If Oakland makes the wild card game, he’d be the odds-on favorite to start, though a now-healthy Manaea has gone 2-0 with one earned run and 21 strikeouts in 18 innings over three starts since his return.
Since his no-hitter on May 7, he’s gone 12-1 with a 3.34 ERA, a .236 batting average against and 89 strikeouts to just 40 walks in 134 2/3 innings. That includes his rough outing against the Rangers — where he allowed three earned runs on three hits and a walk in just 1 2/3 innings — and his nightmare start in Houston on Sept. 9, when he allowed nine earned runs on nine hits in just one inning of work.
The A’s have not yet announced their rotation for the weekend series against the Rangers, but if Fiers gets good news on Wednesday, he’d be ready to go with an extra day’s rest, thanks to Thursday’s off day.