Fielder plays in 500th consecutive game
MINNEAPOLIS -- The reaction from Prince Fielder when asked about playing in his 500th consecutive game said plenty about his approach.
He didn't realize he had reached a milestone.
"Oh, I didn't even know," Fielder said. "Yeah, that's good. That's pretty cool. It's another day. Kinda tired, but when the game starts, I'll be all right."
He's just played. He always plays.
"I'm stubborn," he said. "I've always said: Unless it's bleeding or broken, I'm playing, just because I'm hard-headed."
Fielder has started every regular-season and playoff game the Tigers have played since he signed with Detroit in January 2012. He hasn't missed a game his team has played since Sept. 13, 2010, when a flu bug left him unable to take the field for the Brewers for a series opener in Houston. Before that game he had played in 327 consecutive games.
But he's been there for every one since -- 483 at first base, 17 at designated hitter. Fourteen of those starts at DH have come with Detroit, where the closest manager Jim Leyland can come to getting him to accept a day off is to get him off the field for a game here and there, swapping places with Victor Martinez.
"When you've got stars and they go out there every day, that's a big plus," Leyland said. "And Prince is a very proud guy. … He likes to play. He likes to be in the lineup. He knows that he gets paid to be in the lineup, and that's what he does. And I give him the utmost credit."
Fielder's streak became the longest when Matt Kemp missed a game in May 2012. Fielder was at 217 games then, and it wasn't even the longest stretch of his career.
"You want to be there all the time," Fielder said. "That's your job."
For Fielder, actually, it's the preparation that's the work, from Spring Training to batting practice to extra hitting to scouting reports. He's a creature of habit, but that doesn't necessarily make him a fan of it. He wouldn't be playing every day without it.
"Once the game starts, then it's fun," he said. "All the stuff before, that's what makes it a job, I guess. That's the only Groundhog Day part of it. Spring Training's probably the toughest part of the season.
"Once the game starts, everything's easy after that."
And the longer the season goes, the easier he's making it look. His health has remained strong, and he's batting .380 with a 1.039 OPS for September, a pace that would give him his best month of the season if he keeps it up this week.
But it's not just a physical grind he's conquering. It's a mental grind.
"It's a mental grind when you work in Detroit," Leyland said. "You've got to get up at 5:30 and go to the automotive plant and get on the assembly line, and you've got the bad weather and the traffic. That's a mental grind, too. We're no different than anybody else. People work hard in this country, and there's a lot of days when people would like to stay home."