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Walks mar Mike Fiers’ latest start for Tigers

March 10, 2018 GMT

Dunedin, Fla — He did not make the Astros’ playoff roster last autumn. And part of the reason for being excused was that he walked too many batters in a 2017 season that saw him roll up a 5.22 ERA in 29 games, 28 of them starts.

When he walked three batters in the first inning, and doubled the sting by allowing a pair of home runs in that same first inning, Tigers followers were free to wonder just why Mike Fiers was brought aboard this season for $6 million.

But, as they say in spring camp, it’s early. And when Fiers calmed himself following a miserable opening inning and pitched well through the second and third, Saturday became something other than the initial disaster it stood to be in a right-handed pitcher’s third Grapefruit League start.

“I did everything wrong in the first,” Fiers said in the visiting team’s clubhouse after the Blue Jays whipped the Tigers, 6-3, at Dunedin Stadium, thanks mostly to those three walks, which were preceded by a Curtis Granderson home run, and then a long grand slam to right-center from Teoscar Hernandez. “That first inning got out of hand. And especially in the season that can’t happen. I’ve got to set the tempo and get the ball rolling.”

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Fiers ended up putting away his last six batters, two on strikeouts. He threw 60 pitches, only 36 for strikes. He allowed three hits – the two homers, and a follow-up triple by Granderson.

“Location for me is key,” said Fiers, who had precious little of it in that opening frame. “It’s going to be a bad outing if you can’t get ahead.”

The Tigers probably were consoled by his finish – and by the work Tigers relievers did Saturday.

Buck Farmer pitched two scoreless innings, allowing a single and striking out two.

Paul Voelker had an 11-pitch, two-strikeout ninth.

Drew VerHagen was nicked for a run on a hit and a walk, but Joe Jimenez followed with a clean eighth, striking out a batter.

The Tigers got their runs on back-to-back doubles from Miguel Cabrera and John Hicks, and a two-run double from Edwin Espinal.

The Tigers outhit the Blue Jays, 11-5, but weren’t going to get any reprieves after Fiers’ catastrophic first.

It remains early in 2018′s spring camp. For the Tigers and for Fiers, that’s grounds for expecting better things later.

Lynn.henning@detroitnews.com

Twitter.com/Lynn_Henning