Prince Fielder overcame one major neck operation to produce a season in 2015 that helped him earn the honor of being the American League Comeback Player of the Year.
But with every spinal surgery comes the risk of further damage, and a second cervical fusion procedure is too much for Fielder to overcome.
The 32-year-old Texas Rangers slugger will announce on Wednesday that he is finished playing baseball. He might say that he is retiring, or he might say that his health is forcing him out of the game.
But the end result is still the same: Fielder’s career will effectively end.
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Fielder’s decision comes on the advice of doctors, including Rangers spine specialist Dr. Drew Dossett, who said that he should stop playing because of a heightened risk of further injury that would affect his quality of life.
The news broke ahead of the Rangers’ 7-5 comeback victory over the Colorado Rockies, who for the second straight game saw the Rangers carve up their bullpen.
Adrian Beltre had a two-run double in a four-run eighth, and Elvis Andrus followed two batters later with the go-ahead single that rescued the Rangers from two four-run deficits.
Beltre said that he isn’t sure what Fielder will say but seemed resigned to the fact that he is leaving the game.
If he’s going to be pushed out of baseball, it’s going to be sad. But health and family come before baseball.
Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre, on Prince Fielder’s impending announcement
“We will find out tomorrow,” Beltre said. “I don’t know what he’s going to say. If he’s going to be pushed out of baseball, it’s going to be sad. But health and family come before baseball.”
The Rockies and Rangers begin another two-game series Wednesday at Globe Life Park, where Fielder will hold a 4 p.m. media availability. He will finish his career with 319 homers, 1,028 RBIs, a .283 average and a .506 slugging percentage.
The home run total matches that of his father.
But Fielder hit only 34 of those homers in parts of three seasons with the Rangers after joining them following a November 2013 trade from Detroit for second baseman Ian Kinsler.
Fielder tied Mitch Moreland in 2015 for the team lead with 23 homers and led the club with 98 RBIs and a .305 average en route to multiple postseason awards as the league’s top comeback player.
319 Career home runs for Prince Fielder, the same total his father, Cecil, hit
But he managed only eight homers, 44 RBIs and a .212 average this season as numbness returned to his left arm and prevented him from getting enough lift when he made contact, similar to the symptoms he felt before having the C5 and C6 vertebrae fused in May 2014.
A herniated disk was discovered July 20 during an exam by Los Angeles-based specialist Dr. Robert Watkins, and Dossett performed a fusion of the C4 and C5 vertebrae July 29 in Dallas.
“We’ll come tomorrow and see what happens,” Andrus said.
Rockies outfielder Ryan Raburn was a teammate of Fielder in 2012 in Detroit.
“He’s a gamer. He played every day,” Raburn said. “It’s a terrible situation. But in the end, you have to take care of your health. ... I hate it. But you know, he’s had a great career. He’s a great hitter.”
$96M Amount million remaining on Prince Fielder’s contract over the next four seasons, with the Tigers paying at least $24 million of it
Fielder is set to retire with $96 million remaining on his contract over the next four seasons, with the Tigers paying at least $24 million of it. A source said that the Tigers were paying less than $6 million of Fielder’s 2016 contract.
The contract came from Detroit with an insurance policy on it, general manager Jon Daniels said July 25 as he announced that Fielder had decided to undergo surgery. Daniels, though, did not divulge how much of the contract the policy covers, though it’s believed to be no more than 50 percent.
But that’s not an insignificant chunk, and the money recouped could go toward, for instance, re-signing center fielder Ian Desmond and giving right-hander Yu Darvish a contract extension.
Fielder’s void gives the Rangers an opening at designated hitter in 2017 and could make them more warm to re-signing first baseman Mitch Moreland, who is headed toward free agency. If Moreland doesn’t return, the Rangers could use Joey Gallo at first base and turn the DH spot into one of many Jurickson Profar fills as a super utility player.
The Rangers, though, were almost completely mum about what they know about Fielder’s decision after stunning the Rockies, who took leads of 4-0 and 5-1 against right-hander A.J. Griffin.
Trailing 5-2 to open the eighth, Ian Desmond collected the first of four one-out hits. Carlos Beltran drove Desmond home with a single to right field, and Beltre followed with a drive that one-hopped the wall in center field to score Rougned Odor and pinch runner Delino DeShields.
Andrus brought in Beltre with a two-out single to center as the Rangers won their fourth straight game. They rallied for three runs in the ninth inning Monday to win the opener.
The Rangers have an MLB-best 35 come-from-behind wins.
“It’s pretty fun,” Moreland said. “We’ve been pretty good at it all year. We continue to play hard until the final out.”