Fiers: Earning starter spot is 'No. 1 goal'

Fueled by last season's no-hitter, pitcher is focused on rejoining rotation

Fiers: Earning starter spot is 'No. 1 goal'

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The no-hitter he threw against the Dodgers last year will follow right-hander Mike Fiers for the rest of his life, and he's cool with that.

He also has so much more to prove in his career, and finds himself in what figures to be an intriguing battle for one of the final spots in the Astros' starting rotation.

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Fiers, 30, was a secondary name in the July 30 trade in which the Astros acquired him and center fielder Carlos Gomez from the Brewers for four Minor League players, including their 2014 Minor League Pitcher of the Year (Josh Hader) and Player of the Year (Brett Phillips). Fiers appeared in 10 games (nine starts) for the Astros last year, including his Aug. 21 no-hitter at Minute Maid Park.

Fiers completes no-hitter

"It's always around, it always comes up," Fiers said. "I think that day was huge for this team, for me and definitely for the city of Houston and the fan base there. I get a lot of cards and letters in the mail, all wanting signed things. I love doing that stuff. I'm very welcoming to all that stuff. I want them to support me, and I think they do that really well here in Houston."

When the Astros acquired Doug Fister last month to bolster their rotation, it ramped up the competition. Now that the top three sports in the rotation are set, with Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh and Lance McCullers and Fister the likely fourth starter, it could be veteran Scott Feldman and Fiers vying for the fifth spot. That's a good problem to have if you're the Astros.

"I'm not afraid of the dilemma, and I don't expect them to be less focused just because there's a possibility that one of them has to begin this season in the bullpen," manager A.J. Hinch said. "I want them to prepare as starters mentally and physically, and then we have to sort it out when the time comes."

Fiers has been primarily a starter during his career, and he is focused on winning a spot in the rotation, rather than having to be moved to the bullpen.

"I feel I could be one of the five starters," he said. "Knowing the competition here, it's not going to be easy. My goals are to be one of the starters, so I'm going to do everything I can into being a starter and helping this team go deep into games every fifth day. Whatever this team needs, I guess I'm going to have to do that and contribute. A starter is my No. 1 goal."

Fiers, with his over-the-top delivery, has swing-and-miss stuff despite a fastball that touches 90 mph. He's struck out 408 batters in 404 Major League innings, including 180 in 180 1/3 innings combined last year with the Brewers and Astros.

"He has the stuff to compete," Hinch said. "He gets some funky swings out of some really good hitters. He's not a comfortable at-bat for righties or lefties, and the ball seems to move. He's got an arsenal; he's got a little deception.

"The swing-and-miss is probably his strongest attribute. He gets swings and misses on fastballs, which is not easy to do at this level. I like the stuff that he brings and the edge that he pitches with."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.