Grant Balfour faces live hitters for first time since surgery

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From Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle comes word that A’s right-hander Grant Balfour faced live hitters on Tuesday for the first time since undergoing right knee surgery on February 14.

Balfour will probably face hitters in A’s camp another three or four times before being cleared to make his Cactus League debut. Relief pitchers usually only need a handful of spring training appearances to get properly tuned up for the season, so he should be fine for Opening Day if he can avoid setbacks.

Balfour registered a fantastic 2.53 ERA and 0.92 WHIP in 75 appearances with the A’s last season, striking out 72 batters in 74 2/3 innings.

The fiery 35-year-old will serve as Oakland’s closer this summer if he is healthy.

Mike Fiers may not be ready for start of regular season due to back issue

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Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reports that Tigers starter Mike Fiers is dealing with a back issue and may not be ready for the start of the season. Manager Ron Gardenhire characterized the injury as a “stiff back” and added, “Maybe a little bit of a bulging disk or something like that.”

Fiers, 32, signed a one-year, $6 million deal with the Tigers in December. He has had a forgettable spring, yielding 12 runs on 10 hits and eight walks with seven strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings.

Fiers had a rotation spot locked up along with Michael Fulmer, Jordan Zimmermann, and Francisco Liriano. Matt Boyd and Daniel Norris were battling it out for the No. 5 spot. If Fiers opens the regular season on the 10-day disabled list, both could have spots in the rotation.