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Lyle Spencer

Prince finding his way with Rangers

After forcing things and struggling in April, Fielder may be busting out

Prince finding his way with Rangers

ANAHEIM -- Human nature, Rangers manager Ron Washington called it. Prince Fielder nodded, knowing precisely what his boss meant.

"You're not trying to prove everything -- it's not that," Fielder was saying late Sunday afternoon, having finally felt like Prince again in a 14-3 rout of the Angels that gave Texas the weekend series. "You want to be yourself, and instead of being yourself, you force it. You get away from who you are a little bit."

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That was Fielder during his first month in his new digs as the Rangers' new first baseman. He squeezed the bat maybe a little too hard, swung perhaps with a little too much force. He didn't hit. It was a month like few he'd experienced.

If Prince was feeling oddly like a pauper, that spell seemingly was broken during a bust-out performance against rookie lefty Tyler Skaggs on a sunny day less than an hour from where he was born, in Ontario, Calif.

Fielder lashed run-scoring doubles to right field in the first and second innings. He walked twice and lashed another single in the ninth, racing hard, as if it really meant something, for the final run of the day on Alex Rios' three-run triple into the left-field corner.

"Prince loves the game," Washington said. "He plays with passion."

The three hits lifted Fielder's batting average to .228, which tells you how bad his April was -- .206 with two homers, the first coming in his 15th game in a Rangers uniform.

"Now I'm settled in," Fielder said. "It's been a full month. The guys are cool. It's time to fall in love with my approach -- seeing it and squaring it up. Hopefully, what happened today keeps happening."

Only seven active players, excluding suspended Alex Rodriguez, have higher career on-base plus slugging percentages than Fielder's .910. He's a .284 career hitter with a .523 slugging mark. Turning 30 on Friday, he is nowhere close to the dark side of the mountain.

But there he was all April, no power in his bat, feeling a little lonesome in the Lone Star State.

Washington, who has seen it all in 43 years in the professional game, wasn't shocked. Big star moves to a new city and he gets outside of himself, wanting to show folks he's everything he's cracked up to be.

"When you're a star in this game," Washington explained, "they expect you to be a star all the time. But you're human. You have deficiencies like everyone else -- it's just that your deficiencies don't last as long because of your ability, your talent.

"He had a bad month of April. He can turn it around in May, and no one will remember. When he starts getting it going, he's going to pile up the RBIs like he always does."

Fielder's 881 RBIs are more than any player in the game 30 or younger. Ryan Braun, with 699, is the closest.

"You know with a guy like that, with a track record, he's going to turn it around," Washington said. "This is not a perfect game. It will humble you. If you take something for granted, it will wake you up."

Fielder was highly productive in Milwaukee and then in Detroit after signing as a free agent. He was shipped to Texas, in exchange for Ian Kinsler, after the Tigers fell short in their pursuit of a World Series title in October. Detroit wanted to get more athletic and Texas wanted to get back to bashing teams.

Keenly aware of the expectations, as are all athletes, Prince got away from himself just enough to struggle. And he wasn't alone. Even the great Adrian Beltre has struggled out of the gate, along with Elvis Andrus.

"It happens to everybody, the best of us," Beltre said, his three hits Sunday raising his average to .254. "Sometimes you want to show your teammates a little bit. He understands. We know he's one of the best hitters in the league for so long.

"It's just a matter of time before he gets comfortable and finds his stroke. We're pretty sure he's going to be the same player he's been for nine years."

Fielder has hit some bullets into gloves, into shifts, Beltre pointed out. When you turn it around, those balls find open spaces.

"Obviously, we don't want to be in a slump, but it happens," Beltre said. "It happens early in the season sometimes. I'm used to starting slow and finishing strong."

While Beltre, Fielder and Andrus have scuffled, Shin-Soo Choo (.349) and Rios (.328) have flourished. The potential exists for a lethal order.

"It's just a matter of time before everybody gets on the same page," Rios said. "It's good to see people doing what they do. We know we have a good offense. It's going to be exciting."

Washington said he never lost faith in Fielder, understanding that track records exist for reasons.

"It shouldn't happen; you should continue to be who you are," Washington said. "But it's human nature. I like what I saw with Prince today. He looked so comfortable. He was letting the ball come to him and putting the head [of the bat] on it. He looked like he's beginning to get his timing, letting his hands work. He smoked those balls today."

Fielder is 7-for-19 (.368) in the past five games. He'll celebrate birthday No. 30 on Friday in his new home park against the Red Sox, a big star showing signs that there's a lot of sizzle left in his game.

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