Texas Rangers slugger Prince Fielder enjoyed the extra family time afforded him in 2014.
His season-ending neck surgery last May cut short his first season with the club and left the middle of the lineup with a power vacuum.
Fielder, 30, said he feels great after rehabbing from a cervical fusion of the C5-C6 disks in his neck. He finished 2014 with just three home runs and 16 RBIs and a .247 batting average in 42 games.
“It was real difficult, because I wasn’t used to missing games, so to miss a lot of the season, it was difficult at first, but I had to be an adult about it, kind of try to just get back healthy to be ready this year,” Fielder said at a news conference before the Rangers’ Winter Awards Dinner at the Omni Hotel.
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“I’ll play a pickup game right now, I’m ready to go. I’m 100 percent.”
That’s exactly what Rangers fans want to hear after a dreadful 2014 when Fielder led a long list of injured players missing time. With key hitters such as Shin-Soo Choo and Mitch Moreland feeling healthy again and joining Fielder on the comeback trail, an air of optimism pervades the club about a month from the team’s first full spring training workout.
“A lot of people were hurt, I think everybody’s healthy now, so we’ll have to see,” he said.
He dismissed the notion that there is any added pressure on him to perform in 2015.
“I don’t know if it’s pressure,” he said. “I’m assuming that’s why they got me. I think they think that I can do it, so I don’t think it’s pressure whenever someone believes in you, just got to go out there and do it and stay healthy.”
And staying healthy, Fielder said, is his biggest concern.
The 2014 surgery came as a shock. In his previous eight seasons for the Tigers and Brewers, Fielder had only missed 13 games combined.
From 2009 to 2013 he played in 809 of a possible 810 regular-season games. During that stretch he hit 171 homers. The coming season is not about proving himself, he said.
The shortened season has left him wanting to do more stretching and training than he’s done in the past.
“I’m just going to try to be healthy, that’s my main goal, because I know I always said that before, but being this was the first time I wasn’t healthy. It really means a lot to me now to try to stay healthy.”
His family is probably ready to get him out of the house anyway.
“I drove them crazy, I’m sure they were tired of seeing me all the time,” he said. “I tried to live through the kids. I think I wanted to play more catch with them than they did with me.”
He’d enjoy returning to first base but is not opposed to being used as a designated hitter.
“Wherever, as long as I’m playing,” he said. “I don’t mind [DH], not at all.”
Echoing the sentiments of Rangers fans everywhere.
The Rangers and Fielder announced the Going to Bat Against Bullying program, which aims to help students promote an anti-bullying environment.
The program launches online Monday and will be available for use in grades 4 through 8 in Texas schools.
Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760
Year to forget
Prince Fielder will try to return to All-Star form in 2015 after struggling last season, his first with the Rangers: