6/8/2014 2:20 P.M. ET
Brewers give Fiers fresh start after tough 2013
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
PITTSBURGH -- After a nightmarish 2013 on and off the baseball field, Brewers right-hander Mike Fiers had plenty to think about during his Sunday morning flight back to the big leagues.
"Just prove myself again, that I can pitch here," Fiers said after arriving at PNC Park. "I know I can, but I've got to do it on the field and that's the main thing. You can talk about it and say what you've changed, what you've done, but up here is where it counts. You've got to get it done here."
He's about to get another chance. The Brewers promoted Fiers, who had been excelling in the Triple-A Nashville Sounds' starting rotation, to the Major League bullpen. He arrived the morning after the team placed Tyler Thornburg on the disabled list with a sore right elbow.
It marks a fresh start for Fiers, who was a feel-good story for most of 2012 before going through a heartbreaking '13. He began last season in the Brewers bullpen, but he was demoted after posting an 8.39 ERA in three games, including a start, and ultimately was sent to Advanced Class A Brevard County so Fiers could be with his mother Linda, who was very ill with the chronic inflammatory disease Lupus.
When the Brewers offered a promotion that happened to coincide with Mother's Day, Linda Fiers encouraged her son to accept. But he struggled again, going 1-3 with a 6.60 ERA before another demotion. Back in the Minors, Fiers suffered broken bones in his right arm and wrist when he was struck by a line drive on June 15, and his season was suddenly over.
He spent the summer with his mother, who passed away shortly after Fiers reported to Arizona in August to resume workouts.
"It was a rough year," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "But his Spring Training, I thought, was different this year. His Spring Training was better this year than I had seen him the two previous springs. Just, stuff was better. I don't know if sometimes he's a slow starter or not, but I liked what I saw this year.
"Hopefully he comes up here with that same confidence and is not only able to give us innings, but good quality innings. You guys see our bullpen right now, and these innings all seem pretty important."
The deceptive, soft-tossing Fiers got the nod over other candidates in Nashville because he was already on Milwaukee's 40-man roster and he was pitching the best. In 11 starts, Fiers was 6-3 with a 2.53 ERA and a Minor League-leading 92 strikeouts.
"I think it was just more getting back my confidence and work," Fiers said. "[I was] coming back from a long year last year with a lot of things going on and not having a lot of success up here, getting moved back and forth. I didn't have the greatest winter ball. I think it was just getting the confidence and everything back.
"Then I came into Spring Training and I think everything clicked once I got into the season. Everything I was doing to prepare for the season came together at that time. I was just rolling. I was pitching and feeling like I was before, being aggressive and going after hitters and just getting outs."
Fiers makes it sound simple.
"When you're doing well, it seems a lot more simple than when you're struggling," Fiers said.
Too many hot hitters create lineup problems
PITTSBURGH -- Here's a good problem for Brewers manager Ron Roenicke: His lineup shuffle worked too well.
Since Roenicke responded to Aramis Ramirez's hamstring injury and a subsequent offensive lull by installing Jean Segura as the leadoff man, followed by Ryan Braun, Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Gomez, all of those players have swung hot bats. Now Ramirez is back, batting fifth for the first time in his Brewers tenure, and the offense is still churning along. The Brewers entered Sunday having batted .297 and averaged 6.1 runs in their past 17 games.
"I keep looking at that thing thinking I want to get back to [Braun] three and [Ramirez] four, and they're not allowing me to do it," Roenicke said. "[Gomez] is a hard one. I really don't know what to do with Gomey. He does well everywhere I put him. I'd like to see him lead off because I think he does a lot to that opposing team, but I don't know.
"If [Segura] keeps swinging it, then it makes it easier. But if he struggles some, I think that's what we'll end up doing. Then there will be a conversation with Gomez; I think he likes it in that cleanup spot."
Segura entered Sunday batting .282 as the leadoff hitter and .459 with a .487 on-base percentage when batting in the first inning. Since moving to the leadoff spot on May 22, only one National League player (teammate Khris Davis) has scored more than Segura's 14 runs.
"I'm just comfortable, because I've been in that spot before in the Minor Leagues," said Segura, who said he hit leadoff in 2010 and '12 in the Angels' system. "As a leadoff hitter, I know what I'm going to do. I'm going to get on base a little more. That's my goal."
Segura's comfort in that batting order position is apparent to Roenicke.
"The confidence, that's what this game is," Roenicke said. "When you have as much ability as all of them have here, it's all about confidence. How do you get that? I don't know. Sometimes you can jump start it a little by moving somebody in the order and doing other things, but most of the time, they have to succeed somewhere, and then they take off."
• Roenicke said it wasn't a difficult call to promote Fiers, even though it meant interrupting his success as a starting pitcher in the Minors and moving him to relief. None of the relievers pitching best at Nashville, including Donovan Hand, Dustin Molleken and Jeremy Jeffress, are on the 40-man roster.
"He was a guy," Roenicke said of Fiers. "[Alfredo] Figaro. They just activated him. He'd been out with a hamstring. Guys on the roster is the problem. We do have an issue if we add on to what we're doing here. We talk about bringing [Jeff] Bianchi back once he started swinging well. Well, there's another roster spot. To keep adding guys is difficult to do."
• Brewers catcher Lucroy will be at MLB Network studios on Monday to appear on "MLB Now" with Brian Kenny, Al Leiter and Joel Sherman. The show airs at 4 p.m. CT.