STEPHEN HAWKINS, AP Sports Writer
SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — When a grounder ricocheted off Prince Fielder’s mitt during his first workout with the Texas Rangers, he quickly held it up and proclaimed with a smile, “It’s new.”
So much is new this spring for the All-Star slugger. He’s in Arizona for spring training, not Florida. He has a No. 84 on the back of his uniform, not No. 28. And he is on a new team.
“It felt good. It was a lot of fun,” Fielder said. “Nice easy day, I had a lot of fun meeting my new teammates. So yeah, I’m excited.”
Fielder joined other veteran Rangers players on the field for more than an hour Wednesday, taking grounders and some batting practice on the day before the first official full-squad workout. It was also the first day in camp for shortstop Elvis Andrus, who was also part of the session.
After cutting off his dreadlocks during the offseason and going through some mixed martial arts workouts, Fielder appears trim. Asked he if had lost any weight, Fielder chuckled and said he didn’t know for sure since he doesn’t allow any scales in his house.
“I feel great. Lost a couple of pounds cutting the hair, so that helps,” he said. “I just want to be athletic and not carry around so much weight. … I have no idea what it is, but I think I lost something. I definitely lost something.”
The Rangers acquired Fielder from Detroit in November in exchange for All-Star second baseman Ian Kinsler. Fielder was only two seasons into a $214 million, nine-year contract he signed with the Tigers before the 2012 season, when the Rangers also interested in him.
Texas manager Ron Washington reiterated his plan to have Fielder batting third, after Andrus and before Adrian Beltre, who led the American League with 199 hits last season.
“Prince Fielder, he’s always been the protector, now I’m going to make him the protectee,” Washington said.
The past three years, Fielder batted behind that season’s MVP — Ryan Braun in Milwaukee in 2011 and Miguel Cabrera the last two years with the Tigers. Beltre has said it is Fielder’s turn to be an MVP.
“Nice, that sounds good,” Fielder said. “I’m not going to argue that. I hope that happens.”
Fielder was the only player at first base Wednesday, while there were multiple players at the rest of the infield spots. He took grounders and made some throws, extending a segment by going “one more, one more” after a wide throw to second base that he didn’t want to be his last. He seemed at ease with the ongoing banter initiated mainly by third baseman Beltre and Andrus.
When middle infielders worked on turning double plays, Beltre came to the other side of the diamond and rotated with Fielder taking throws.
Beltre told the middle infielders, “We got it, don’t worry about it” after Fielder made a nifty pick of a throw in the dirt.
“Everybody’s laid back, they work hard,” Fielder said. “That’s all you ask for, good people who work hard and everybody wants to have fun, which is a big deal when you have to be together with people for so long.”
Before talking to reporters for about 10 minutes, Fielder changed from his uniform to a black T-shirt with Mickey Mouse’s face on it. On the back was the No. 28, the number he wore through his 1,322 career major league games so far, with Milwaukee (2005-11) and Detroit (2012-13).
“I just want Prince to be Prince. I don’t want him to come here and try to think he’s got to take us on his shoulder,” Washington said. “I just want him to do what he does and let everyone else do what they do, and everything will work out.”
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