ARLINGTON, Texas -- Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington has a message for those who worry first baseman Prince Fielder’s slow start could continue deep into the season.
“I don’t lack confidence in Prince Fielder one iota,” Washington said. “I don’t care about average. I don’t care that he has two home runs. I don’t care that [catcher Robinson] Chirinos has one RBI more than him. I know you guys are searching to find out. If we knew, we’d have fixed it. We’ve just got to wait. I’ve got patience.”
Fielder needs some hits in this series with the A’s to avoid his worst month in terms of offensive production in the big leagues. He’s hitting .209 (19-for-91) with two homers and eight RBIs with three games left in April. His OPS is .669. And Fielder is just 4-for-27 with runners in scoring position.
Fielder has had only one month in his career with an OPS less than .700. The fewest RBIs he’s ever had in a single month was seven in July of 2011. He hasn’t hit worse than his current average in a month since June 2006, when he hit just .208, but did manage seven homers and nine RBIs in that month.
Washington says Fielder’s timing is off. He sees the slugger showing signs of solid timing in batting practice, but it hasn’t translated to games.
“Sometimes it takes a while,” Washington said. “That’s why we play six months. He might get through April and his timing is bad and first of May, some pitcher toes the rubber and he finds his timing and then he’s gone.”
Teams have consistently shifted against Fielder and the slugger has hit a lot of pulled grounders into the shifts for outs. He doesn’t want to alter his approach and try to go the other way because he fears of rolling over pitches and not being able to at least try to drive the ball over or through the shift.
A deeper look at the numbers shows that Fielder is getting some better results in the latter portion of this month. He is 9-for-30 (.300) in his last nine games just to get his average above .200 and he’s reached base safely in 10 straight games going into Monday’s series with the A’s. His nine intentional walks are an AL record for April and a club record for any month, showing that opposing managers still fear Fielder and would rather pitch to someone behind him. When Adrian Beltre was out a few weeks, that was usually Kevin Kouzmanoff, who hit the ball well enough to win AL player of the week honors a few weeks ago.
Washington and the Rangers will try to stay patient and trust that Fielder’s production will improve as the season goes along.
“He knows that we’ve got his back, that we care about him,” Washington said. “He’s got teammates too. Right now, they’re doing a good job of picking him up. And when he gets started, then the rest of us can jump on his back. He’s got a big back and we’ll jump on his back one after another and he’ll be taking us to the promised land. We’ve just got to wait.”