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Mike Fiers to start Friday; A’s consider 6-man rotation

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What a twist!

Wild Card Round - Chicago White Sox v Oakland Athletics - Game Three Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s will give Mike Fiers a start after all.

The team activated the right-hander from the injured list on Monday, and at the time the word was that he would be available out of the bullpen while they figured out how to use him. He’s yet to appear in a game but that’s about to change, as he will start on Friday in the opener of their home series against the Baltimore Orioles, reports Alex Coffey of The Athletic.

Indeed, Fiers is now listed on MLB’s official site as the starter for Friday. Matt Kawahara of the S.F. Chronicle provides more details:

Melvin said the rest of the starters will be pushed back a day with Fiers pitching tomorrow. Allows for a little extra rest with 17 games in a row. They will reassess rotation after this turn through.

And more from Coffey:

[Melvin] says he’s going to insert Fiers in there and keep everyone else in order. Says they’ll reassess about whether or not to go with a six-man rotation later on.

Oakland’s rotation has begun to stabilize after an early slump to begin the season. Chris Bassitt has now thrown three quality starts in a row, and Sean Manaea allowed only four total runs in his last four outings. Frankie Montas was quality in three of his past four tries, and Jesús Luzardo has impressed twice in a row. And lefty Cole Irvin, who’s been filling in for Fiers, has produced excellent results his last three times out.

None of the five are dominating, but everyone is pitching well lately. Entering Thursday the group had its collective ERA down to 4.38, ranking 20th-best in MLB, with a 3.94 FIP and .330 xwOBA that each place 14th, and all of those numbers will improve after Bassitt’s most recent performance. Now they’ll get some extra rest, not the worst idea for a rotation that’s second in the majors in pitches per start and eighth in innings per start.

Since his acquisition in mid-2018, Fiers has provided a steady veteran hand on the A’s staff. He led the club in innings in 2019 and nearly did so again last summer, and despite lacking overpowering stuff he has a knack for ending the day with six innings in the books and his team in position to win. He threw a no-hitter in 2019.

  • Fiers, OAK 2018-20: 4.00 ERA, 105 ERA+, 296⅔ ip, 215 Ks, 80 BB, 51 HR, 4.96 FIP, .323 xwOBA

The rotation now lines up like this. The three games against the Orioles from Fri-Sun have been announced, while the Mon-Wed names in italics are just how it would theoretically go if they do indeed keep the order the same and just push everyone back a day.

  • Fri: Fiers
  • Sat: Luzardo
  • Sun: Manaea
  • Mon: Montas
  • Tue: Irvin
  • Wed: Bassitt

The homestand includes three games against the Orioles, then four against the Toronto Blue Jays, and finally three with the Tampa Bay Rays. Will Oakland keep the six-man rotation beyond this next turn through? We’ll find out soon enough!