Prince reports to camp early, content to DH

Neck injury no longer concern, Rangers star looks to build on bounceback season

February 22nd, 2016

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Mitch Moreland had the best season of his career for the Rangers in 2015. He gives much credit to Prince Fielder willing to be used mainly at designated hitter for the first time in his career so that Moreland could stay at first base.

"It was huge," Moreland said. "He has been a great teammate and a great friend along the way, and a great leader. He has shown what he brings to the table in the clubhouse. He keeps it fun, puts the team first and wants to win. As far as him stepping up and doing that, I was grateful to him. I wanted to be up for the challenge and prove it was the right thing."

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Fielder also enjoyed a nice 2015 season after missing the last four months of 2014 while recovering from surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck. Fielder ended up playing in 158 games for the Rangers, including 139 at designated hitter, and hit .305 with 23 home runs and 98 RBIs. He won every Comeback/Bounceback Player of the Year Award available.

Now he is back in camp with the Rangers, having arrived on Monday two days before the first official full-squad workout. He arrived in a different state of mind than he did a year ago, and he is still prepared to get most of his work at designated hitter. The neck injury is no longer a concern

"Obviously I am not worried about my body or anything," Fielder said. "I can just get ready to play. There is no fear if I can't do it. If I make an out, I don't have to worry about it being the neck. It's just an out."

Fielder didn't let the transition to designated hitter bother him, but he did slip in his production as the season progressed. Fielder hit .339 with a .521 slugging percentage before the All-Star break and .264 with a .394 slugging percentage afterwards.

"I probably don't want to admit it, but having a half-year off, then playing last year, got to me," Fielder said. "I might have gotten tired again. But having a new year under me, I should be used to it."

The Rangers are hoping that makes a difference in 2016. Fielder had a nice comeback season in 2015, but his numbers were still below his best when he was with the Brewers. From 2007-11, Fielder hit .285 while averaging 40 home runs, 113 RBIs and a .553 slugging percentage.

"Yeah, who wouldn't want that," Fielder said. "I'll take 46 [home runs] and 140 [RBIs] ... that would be sweet. I don't care what my average is."

He is also willing to spend another year at designated hitter so Moreland can stay at first base. Prior to 2015, Fielder had never had more than 11 games at DH in a single season.

"Whatever [manager Jeff Banister] wants, that's fine with me," Fielder said. "I would like to give Mitch more DHs coming off his foot injury. But it's up to Banister.

"I'm still going to take ground balls. The day you guys see me with a [batter's] helmet and just a bat out there, then yeah, that's when you know the glove is nowhere around. Until then, I'm still going to take ground balls and be ready, just in case."