Traveling across the country hasn’t been the easiest thing to do the past few days, but Prince Fielder showed up Monday for a news conference introducing him as the Texas Rangers’ new first baseman.
No one should have been surprised based on Fielder’s track record. Showing up for work, putting aside aches and pains and travel woes, is one of the things he does best.
The Texas heat isn’t a big deal for a player who lived in Texas some while growing up before moving to the sunshine and humidity of South Florida.
Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said that Fielder has arms the size of most folks’ legs.
Even though manager Ron Washington is open to a day off every now and then, a lesson Fielder learned as an 11-year-old continues to drive him.
“One day, I fouled a ball off my shin when I was young, and my dad told me I wasn’t hurt,” said Fielder. “I didn’t know what he meant, and he walked away and didn’t talk to me for a day or two. So, from then on, I was like, ‘I guess that means you should play unless it’s broken.’ I just decided to play no matter what.”
So, get used to seeing Fielder every day over the next seven seasons. He’ll bat third, behind Elvis Andrus and ahead of Adrian Beltre; wear No. 84 on the back of his size 58 jersey; and try to make good use of the Home Run Porch in right field at Rangers Ballpark.
“I have two boys and a wife and a family. I just want them to be proud of me,” said Fielder, who was acquired Wednesday in a trade from Detroit for second baseman Ian Kinsler.
The Rangers are expecting Fielder to do more than just show up, a theme that dogged him last month as he sputtered in the playoffs and the Tigers fell short of the World Series.
The left-handed-hitting slugger will be expected to bring power back to a lineup that didn’t have its usual pop in 2013. He has averaged 35 homers and 107 RBIs the past eight seasons for Milwaukee and Detroit, hitting behind MVP winners Ryan Braun and Miguel Cabrera.
More moves are coming this off-season, said Daniels, but Fielder could very well be the Rangers’ lone big splash.
For now, center fielder Leonys Martin is expected to be the leadoff hitter, but top-of-the-order outfielders Shin-Soo Choo and Jacoby Ellsbury are free agents who could be attractive for a Rangers team with holes to fill in left field and at designated hitter.
The Rangers continue to keep tabs on free agent Nelson Cruz, a middle-of-the-order power hitter who they can sign without surrendering draft-pick compensation.
Cruz could likely bat fifth behind Beltre, who will protect the five-time All-Star Fielder.
Fielder hasn’t missed a game since Sept. 13, 2010, when the stomach flu cost him against Houston. He has played an MLB-best 505 straight, has missed just that one game during the past six seasons, and has sat only 12 times since becoming a full-time big-leaguer in 2006.
“That means a lot, and that says a lot,” Washington said. “He’s 29 years old. He’s got a lot of baseball left in him.”
For now, Fielder just wants to fit in with his new team and get to know his teammates before speaking up. Even though he was in Detroit for only two seasons after signing a nine-year, $214 mega deal, of which the Rangers will pay $138 million, Fielder said that he is ready for a fresh start after a “down” year of 25 homers and 106 RBIs.
“Last year, it was last year,” Fielder said. “Everybody was on me about my performance, and rightfully so. I sucked. But I didn’t have to be reminded of it. Hopefully we can make some better memories here.”