Mike Fiers eminent return causes questions for Oakland A’s

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 01: Mike Fiers #50 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning of Game Three of the American League Wild Card Round at RingCentral Coliseum on October 01, 2020 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 01: Mike Fiers #50 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning of Game Three of the American League Wild Card Round at RingCentral Coliseum on October 01, 2020 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /
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In theory, Mike Fiers was signed to reprise his role as the Oakland A’s fifth starter. Although he was not penciled into the original rotation, he was still likely to have a key role, especially given the fragility of presumed fifth starter A.J. Puk. While Puk is on the Injured List, Fiers has not been able to be the fallback option he was expected to be, having started the season on the IL himself.

But Fiers is getting closer. He is expected to be activated in the coming days as his lumbar strain is healed. It is just a matter of his being built back up to a starting workload as he is expected to be added to the A’s rotation.

Who does Mike Fiers replace for Oakland A’s?

Fiers was brought back on a one year deal worth $3.5 million despite a relatively disappointing 2020 campaign. He had led the A’s with six wins, but his 4.58 ERA and 1.373 WHiP over 59 innings were not what Oakland had been hoping for. With his track record as a solid back of the rotation arm, it was worth the gamble for the A’s to see if he has anything left.

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The problem is that the A’s rotation has pitched well of late. Cole Irvin, who would be the most likely candidate to be removed from the rotation on paper, has actually been the A’s second best starter this year. After a shaky start to the season, he has allowed just one run on 12 hits and a walk over his 11.1 innings, striking out 12 batters. This would not be the time to pull him from the rotation.

If the A’s are going to base their decision on productivity, then Frankie Montas would be the pitcher to be removed from the rotation. His 6.75 ERA is the worst of any of the A’s starters, but he also has the potential to dominate. His history should give him a bit more leeway, although his place in the rotation may be tenuous.

The best move would seem to be to use Fiers in a long relief role for the time being. There is a possible opening in the bullpen, especially given Reymin Guduan‘s struggles. However, the A’s seem determined to plug Fiers into the rotation, although there does not appear to be an opening for him at this point.

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Mike Fiers is almost ready to return from the Injured List. When he is ready, it will force the Oakland A’s to make a tough decision with the rotation.

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