Prince Fielder sat on the bench for a second consecutive game Sunday, something that he hadn’t done when healthy since 2007, and that was only because he was serving a two-game suspension.
This time he was out of the lineup as the Texas Rangers try a new approach to snap him out of the worst prolonged slump of his career. The goal is to remove him as far as they can from a baseball game without removing him from the roster, and the hope is the new perspective will recharge his swing.
Fielder, though, is of the mind that he shouldn’t have sat Saturday or Sunday in the series finale against the Seattle Mariners. The hot-hitting Jurickson Profar was the designated hitter and did something in his first at-bat Fielder hasn’t done in his past 12: got a hit.
The leadoff single was the only hit the Rangers had until they put together three hits and an error for a three-run fifth to erase a two-run hole, and the final hit was an RBI single by Profar that proved to be the game-winner in a 3-2 victory.
Derek Holland allowed two runs in seven innings and Elvis Andrus scored the tying run with a risky but calculated dash home on a shallow fly ball to left field to help the Rangers complete a three-game sweep of the Mariners, who entered the series tied with the Rangers for first place in the American League West.
But manager Jeff Banister’s decision to swap Profar for Fielder, even if temporary, continued to be the revolving storyline with the Rangers.
“It’s his call,” Fielder said. “I understand it’s his call. You’ve got to respect that. I’m just going out there and giving what I’ve got. It is what it is. I’ve never been in this before, but it happens. It’s baseball.”
Banister was fine with Fielder not agreeing with the decision to pull him from the lineup, but also said that Fielder’s slump needed to be addressed. There is no timetable for how long Fielder might sit, though Monday is a possibility for him to return against Houston Astros right-hander Mike Fiers.
Banister has “unplugged” hitters in the past, including Ian Desmond earlier this season and Shin-Soo Choo in 2015. Each returned productive. Fielder is aware of that, but didn’t think the same treatment should be applied to him.
“I don’t care about any of that,” he said. “I play every day. That’s fine. It might work, but it’s not something I want to do. But it’s the manager’s call.
“Last year we had a lot of issues with the same thing with a lot guys, and they turned it around and had good years. I’m no different. We’re winning. Last year we weren’t winning. Who am I to sit here and complain when we’re winning?”
The problem, Fielder said, is not pulling the trigger when he gets a pitch to hit and then chasing pitches out of the strike zone. Pitchers have adjusted since he batted .339 in the first half last season, and have held him to a .232 average since.
Fielder said that he is healthy and not feeling any new issues after a major operation in 2014 for a herniated disk. Half-jokingly he said all that is hurting is “just my heart and my feelings.”
But he wasn’t kidding about being unhappy about not being in the lineup. He wants to be in there, even though he can’t get out of the worst slump of his career.
“Let me make my movie turn out right,” he said.
Holland recorded season-highs in innings and strikeouts (six), and the only damage he allowed was a two-run homer by Nelson Cruz in the fourth. He was trailing 2-0 when Jared Hoying singled in Mitch Moreland with one out in the seventh and Andrus took advantage when left fielder Stefen Romero hesitated on a shallow fly by Bobby Wilson.
“In that situation I was just hoping he’d kind of flare the ball to the infield or not be in position to throw the ball,” Andrus said. “As soon as he caught it I just started jogging a little bit. As soon as I saw him get a little bit lazy I just took off for home plate.”
Profar was next, and he grounded a single past Kyle Seager and Hoying charged home for a 3-2 lead. Two of the three runs against Hisashi Iwakuma were unearned.
“He was rolling until they made an error and we made him pay,” said Profar, who has a hit in all nine of his games this season. “We keep fighting until we score runs.”
And it looks like he will keep playing for Fielder, who on Sunday wasn’t thrilled to not be in the lineup again.
“I’m trying to get hits, man. I’m hitting .180,” Fielder said. “You guys can have the homers. I’m trying to get hits, I’m trying to drive in runs, I’m trying not to get benched for two days, you know? I’m just trying to play baseball. I’m not trying to hit homers. I’m just trying to not have this happen again.”
Rangers vs. Astros
7:05 p.m. Monday, FSSW