Fiers off to sizzling start in bid for rotation spot

Astros right-hander twirls perfect outing, has yet to allow spring run

Fiers off to sizzling start in bid for rotation spot

JUPITER, Fla. -- Right-hander Mike Fiers is performing this spring like someone who wants to force the Astros to make some tough decisions in a few weeks.

Fiers, competing for a spot in the rotation, retired all nine batters he faced in Saturday's 4-3 loss to the Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium, striking out four. He's allowed only two hits and is scoreless in five Grapefruit League innings.

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"He was exceptional today -- very, very good," Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. "I was really impressed with the use of his changeup. He got some really good swings and misses and some mis-hits. He's a good pitcher. We saw it a little bit last year in the second half after we traded for him, but he's good and he gets some funky swings when he's on."

Fiers said he felt he's progressed from his first start against the Yankees in Tampa, Fla., on Monday, when he threw two innings. His fastball was better this time, he said, along with his changeup and his cutter. He threw some good cutters to lefties and mixed in some sliders to righties, along with the occasional curveball.

He said he was working on command in the strike zone and throwing different pitches in different counts.

"Every time out is a chance for me to prove myself to this team and to this coaching staff and let them know that I can be one of the five starters here in Houston," he said. "Every good outing counts; every good time out just helps my cause, but I'm just focusing on myself, really. I've got to do whatever I've done in the past and not try to go outside what I can do."

Fiers, 30, went a combined 5-9 with a 3.89 ERA in 31 games (30 starts) last year with the Brewers and Astros, who acquired him and outfielder Carlos Gomez in a July trade. With the Astros, he was 2-1 with a 3.32 ERA in 10 games (nine starts), including an Aug. 21 no-hitter against the Dodgers.

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.