Mitch Moreland has always been grateful that Prince Fielder was willing to become the Rangers' designated hitter a year ago, allowing him to remain at first base.That's one reason why they have become close friends and why it hit Moreland hard when he heard Fielder might miss the rest of
Mitch Moreland has always been grateful that Prince Fielder was willing to become the Rangers' designated hitter a year ago, allowing him to remain at first base.
That's one reason why they have become close friends and why it hit Moreland hard when he heard Fielder might miss the rest of the season with another herniated disk in his neck.
• Fielder has herniated disk in neck; Choo to DL
"The first thing that crossed my mind is what he is feeling and what he went through to get back," Moreland said. "He had such a good season last year, so for it to happen again, I can't imagine."
Fielder missed the last four months of the 2014 season after undergoing surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck. He returned last year, winning the American League Comeback Player of the Year Award after hitting .305 with 23 home runs and 98 RBIs.
"It's just one of those bad situations," Moreland said. "For him and for us, it's a big loss, not only on the field, but off. The presence he brings, the fun he brings, he always has a big smile on his face, it's something we'll miss.
"Somebody else will have to step up."
That someone might need to be Moreland.
"That's something I'd like to do from Day 1," Moreland said. "But I'm not putting any added pressure into the situation. I'm going to keep coming in here, stick to my routine and have a good approach. That's what I'll continue to do."
This has not been Moreland's best season. He will enter the Rangers' three-game series with the Royals on Friday night hitting .235 with 13 home runs, 36 RBIs and a .433 slugging percentage in 84 games. But Moreland is batting .295 with seven home runs, 14 RBIs and a .591 slugging percentage in his past 31 games, so the latest trend shows is he is playing better.
"It's kind of a mixed bag," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "It's taken a little while to get things going, then he had some challenges. It seems like when he gets a little traction, he hasn't had that extended run where he has been really hot."
Moreland made it clear what he thinks of his season when asked about it after last week's All-Star break.
"Halfway done," Moreland said.
As for his second-half goal?
"Yeah, help the team win as many games as we can and win the World Series," Moreland said. "That sounds like a good goal."
Increased production from first base might be a good goal, but Moreland doesn't worry about statistics, just about winning baseball games. The Rangers were doing that just fine for the first three months of the season with Moreland at first.
Their recent slide has far more to do with the starting pitching than offense, but the Rangers still need Moreland to continue the upward trend he has shown in the past 31 games.
"I don't want any one single guy thinking his contributions are worth more than anybody else's," Banister said. "Just add value. Try to add more value. Trying to take on a bigger load creates a bigger detriment. I want the pass-the-baton mentality, just create opportunities for the next guy.
"We'll craft an offensive structure that will work for us. If you start thinking you have to do more than other players, it's hard to have success that way."
One might also come to the conclusion that Moreland needs a big second half since he is eligible for free agency after the season. But Moreland has a simple answer for that as well.
"We've got a long ways to go before that," said Moreland.
The pressing need is right now.
T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.