Timing will come to Prince Fielder

ARLINGTON, Texas -- It was about this time nine years ago when Nashville Sounds hitting coach Gary Pettis received a phone call from a member of the Milwaukee Brewers' front office.

Prince Fielder had played only 12 games at Triple-A, but management wanted to know what was wrong with the 20-year-old prodigy, who was hitting .200 without a homer or RBI in 10 games.

"Nothing," said Pettis, now the Texas Rangers' third-base coach.

"He'll be fine. He's just figuring things out. If you had drafted him out of college, he'd be in rookie ball right now. He's in Triple-A playing against guys a lot older than him, and he's learning. He'll get it."

And he did, finishing with 28 homers, 86 RBIs and a .291 batting average in 103 games. Fielder spent parts of June, July and August with Milwaukee before getting called up in September.

These days, it's manager Ron Washington and hitting coach Dave Magadan getting questions about Fielder because the big fella hasn't started hitting yet.

The operable word is "yet." The problem around here is too many folks are bringing a football mentality to baseball and it just doesn't work.

The baseball season is too long. There's too much ebb and flow within the 162-game grind. No one game, at this point of the season, matters all that much in the big picture because we haven't even played 10 percent of the schedule.

So chill out.

Have an adult beverage, if you must. Try some Bikram yoga. Or get a hot stone massage.

Fielder really is the least of the Rangers' worries.

After all, you'd be better served worrying about the overall lack of production from the bottom four hitters in the lineup. Or whether Tanner Scheppers and Robbie Ross can really contribute as starters. Or whether Joakim Soria and Alexi Ogando can handle the closer's role.

Fielder? Don't worry about him. The dude is a five-time All-Star with a career batting average of .285. In nine seasons, he's averaged 35 homers and 106 RBIs. Yes, he's hitting with .185 with just one homer and four RBIs this season. If he's still hitting below .200 on Memorial Day, then we can have a more serious discussion.

He has three hits in the past two games, so he might be starting to find a rhythm. He homered in his first at-bat Tuesday night in the Rangers' 5-0 win over Seattle at Globe Life Park.

In 2009, Fielder hit .299 with 46 homers and 141 RBIs. Still, he had a 12-game stretch in July and September where he went 8-for-54 (.148) with no doubles and four homers.

The point? Even in his best season, Fielder had a two-week stretch where he stunk. While Fielder has hit the ball harder the past few games, the results have remained spotty. The reality is it's still probably going to take Fielder some time to get on track.

With Adrian Beltre on the disabled list (quadriceps) and his replacement, Kevin Kouzmanoff, hitting behind Fielder, no sane pitcher would give the slugger anything to hit, especially with runners in scoring position.

Just so you know, Fielder has started slowly before. He's never gone more than 14 games without hitting his first homer of the season -- and that's happened twice.

In 2010, Fielder had two homers at the end of April, and he finished with 32. In 2008, he needed 14 games to hit his first homer but still finished with 34.

His home run on Tuesday? Came in Game 14.

That's why you must believe the production will be what it has always been.

The problem, right now, is Fielder's timing. He has none, because he's thinking too much.

When he's sitting fastball, he gets off-speed stuff. When he's looking off-speed, pitchers blow fastballs past him. And when he gets the pitch he's looking for, he's either a tad early or a smidge late.

Like any good hitter, when Fielder is in a groove he sees the pitch, reacts to it and mashes it. When he's seeing the ball well, he beats the shift he's seen virtually every game by lifting the ball over it.

Against Fielder, teams have been playing their third baseman behind second base, the shortstop in the outfield grass between first and second base and the second baseman in short right field.

The shift cost Fielder at least three hits against Houston, but the one thing about Fielder is you know the game won't beat him down.

He's been around the game his entire life. His dad, Cecil, was a slugging star for the Detroit Tigers in the '80s. Prince was the seventh player taken in the 2002 draft. He's mashed the ball for every team he's ever played.

More than most, he understands the need to maintain an even-keeled approach in a sport in which the best of all time fail 70 percent of the time.

Last season was a bad year for Fielder. He hit .279 with 25 homers and 106 RBIs, and he struggled in Detroit's playoff loss to Boston. Perhaps that's where so much of this paranoia about whether Fielder will ever hit has originated.

General manager Jon Daniels thinks Fielder, like any player new to a club, might be pressing a tad because he wants to do well.

Maybe. Maybe not.

It doesn't really matter. When the seasons ends, Fielder will have his numbers, and this slow start will be a faint memory.