Rangers eye status quo from new-look Fielder
Offseason addition loses weight, cuts dreads, brings consistent bat to lineup
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- There is much new and different for Prince Fielder this spring: new team, new spot in the batting order, and most noticeable, a new haircut. The famous dreadlocks are gone, at least for now.
Fielder also appears to have slimmed down a bit, even if he is still the heaviest player in camp.
"I lost a couple of pounds cutting the hair, so that helps," Fielder said after working out with the Rangers for the first time on Wednesday. "When you cut your hair, everybody thinks you've lost weight. That was the goal."
The question is how much weight did he lose?
"I don't know," Fielder said. "Scales are not allowed in my house. I have no idea what it is, but I think I lost something. I definitely lost something."
The haircut was only part of it. He also didn't do as much weight-lifting as he has in the past.
"I lift weights, but not so heavy," Fielder said. "I'm not trying to be bulky, I'm trying to lean it out and be more athletic. It's going to be hot, not that it's going to affect me too much.
"I grew up in Florida, I grew up in Texas. It makes you tired, but I just want to be athletic and not carry around so much weight."
The Rangers aren't concerned about the weight. There has never been any doubt about Fielder being in shape to play a full season. He has played in at least 157 games in eight straight seasons, including the last 505 consecutive with the Brewers and Tigers. He has also played in 809 of his team's last 810 games.
"It makes a difference when your big boys work as hard as Prince does," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "Prince did it from the first game of spring. He hits a popup to the infield in a spring game, and I see a flash going around the bases. That was impressive. And it never stopped. For your best player to play that way, it's really a big lift."
The Rangers are counting on it. It's all part of the package they expect to get after acquiring Fielder from the Tigers for second baseman Ian Kinsler this winter. They expect to get a player who posts up every night and can provide a big bat in the middle of a lineup that scored 78 fewer runs last season than it did in 2012.
On Wednesday, manager Ron Washington went over his lineup again, and reaffirmed Fielder will bat third behind Shin-Soo Choo and Elvis Andrus and ahead of Adrian Beltre and Alex Rios. Fielder has been a cleanup hitter for most of his career, but Washington is adamant about keeping Beltre as his No. 4 hitter. Behind Rios will come designated hitter Mitch Moreland, catcher Geovany Soto or J.P. Arencibia, second baseman Jurickson Profar and center fielder Leonys Martin at the bottom.
That's the way Washington had it lined up on the day that position players officially reported to Spring Training. Injuries or a lack of production have been known to alter a lineup, but Washington already has his lineup set for Opening Day.
"It's not only what it does for Prince, but what it does for everybody in the lineup," Washington said. "To me, Adrian is more productive in the fourth hole. It's important that everybody knows every single day where they are. There will be some juggling in the lineup, but it won't be in the middle of the lineup."
Fielder said he has no problems with that.
"Hitting in front of Beltre, that's not a bad thing," Fielder said. "I am not going to argue about it. You're going to do whatever the manager tells you to do, but I think it definitely helps knowing where you're going to hit every day and just knowing where you're going to be."
The actual spot is not as important as the production. Fielder has 277 home runs and 779 RBIs over the past seven seasons, second most in the Major Leagues. He is sixth with a .535 slugging percentage.
But his numbers weren't quite as good last season with the Tigers, even though he still hit .279 with 25 home runs and 106 RBIs on a team that went to the American League Championship Series before losing to the Red Sox. But the 25 home runs were a career low, and so was his .457 slugging percentage.
"It's over, there's nothing you can do about it now," Fielder said. "I think everybody who's in the big leagues has pressure just because you want to do well and help your team win, so most of that pressure is put on by yourself, because you just want to be the best you can be.
"I just want to win, that's the main goal. Win and be healthy, that's it. That's what it's all about."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.