MILWAUKEE — At the tail end of a disappointing spring training, Mike Fiers was hoping to win a spot in the Milwaukee Brewers’ bullpen, but he also was preparing himself mentally for the possibility of opening the year at Class AAA Nashville.
As it turned out, neither happened.
Instead, Fiers was named the team’s No. 5 starter after Chris Narveson was moved into a long-relief role in the bullpen to open the season. Fiers is scheduled to pitch Saturday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Miller Park.
“I’m just glad they didn’t really take the spring like it was as the biggest (determiner),” Fiers said. “I’m glad they still have in mind what I did last year. I would have liked to have been in the bullpen if that’s what it came to. But starting is what I like to do, and I feel like I can start in the big leagues.”
The right-hander will come into that game having not made a major-league start for the Brewers since March 21. In that one, Fiers allowed eight hits, seven earned runs and two walks in a three-inning, 75-pitch loss to the Chicago White Sox.
That start left Fiers at 2-1 with a 6.98 earned run average. And after the acquisition of free agent Kyle Lohse, it appeared as though he was on the outside looking in with regard to the rotation.
The Brewers had Fiers make a start in a Class A game in his next turn, and he’s now coming off a 70-pitch outing in an intrasquad game Sunday in Arizona featuring a mix of Class AAA and AA players.
“It went great,” he said. “Actually the last two times I’ve pitched went a lot better than the starts before that. I don’t know what was going on early, but I think I figured out what I needed to, and those last two starts definitely helped me.
“I just worked on throwing strikes, getting ahead of hitters and finishing them off. Kept my pitch count down, so I was effective.”
In his six spring appearances (191/3 innings), Fiers surrendered a team-high 29 hits, leading to a WHIP of 1.91. Opposing batters also hit .333 against him, leaving the 27-year-old questioning himself.
“It’s not the hitters. It wasn’t about who was in the box,” he said. “It was about me making pitches, and I wasn’t doing it. I felt like I never threw a ball before at one point. It just felt weird.
“After I got off to a bad start in spring, I think I lost a little confidence, and that was a big part of it.”
Fiers did lead the Brewers in strikeouts in the spring with 16, and he also has a great run with the Brewers last season from which to draw confidence. He was 8-6 with a 2.88 ERA over his first 16 starts before tailing off and finishing 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA.
Plan behind the plate: Manager Ron Roenicke gave catcher Martin Maldonado his first start at catcher in the series finale with the Colorado Rockies with Wily Peralta on the mound.
Considering the two worked together frequently in the minor leagues and again last September, it wasn’t a surprise to see them paired up on Wednesday.
Still, it doesn’t appear as though Roenicke is planning on making Maldonado the personal catcher of Peralta.
“I think sometimes that first outing is nice, when he’s more comfortable with somebody who’s comfortable with him,” Roenicke said. “(Jonathan Lucroy ) caught him well last year, so it’s not something we’ll do every time. “
Roenicke was asked what factors would play into whom Roenicke plays on a given day.
“It changes all the time, and their production helps that decision,” he said.