SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — Prince Fielder got an earful from Texas Rangers teammate Adrian Beltre during batting practice Monday.
“I haven’t heard him talk trash since May,” Fielder said. “It was a lot of fun.”
Fiedler missed that kind of interaction after neck surgery last season limited him to 42 games in his first year with the Rangers.
Having a healthy Fielder back alongside Beltre in the middle of the batting order should provide a huge boost for the Rangers after an AL-high 95 losses last season.
“You don’t know how much you miss it until it gets taken away,” Fielder said. “This is probably the most excited I’ve been for spring since my first one. … I’m 100 percent, nothing is hurting. I feel good.”
The slugger’s first day in camp came on the same day Texas reworked the final two seasons of Beltre’s $96 million, six-year contract, eliminating the team’s conditional right to void the third baseman’s 2016 salary. It was two days before the full-squad reporting date and three days before the first official workout.
Fielder, who is signed through 2020, had played in a majors-best 547 consecutive games and missed just one of 810 games since the start of the 2009 season before the Rangers acquired him. He came from Detroit in a November 2013 trade for Ian Kinsler.
“I was definitely sad that I wasn’t going to be able to play,” Fielder said. “I thought I was only going to have to miss a couple of games. I was mad about it. It was just a nagging thing that I thought would go away. It’s not like I haven’t played a little banged up before. I thought once that goes away, I would be fine, but it never went away.
“Once they told me what it was, I was kind of relieved to at least know what it is and they could fix it,” he said. “But I was definitely sad not to be able to play.”
Fielder had only three homers and 16 RBIs in 42 games, and didn’t play after May 16. The only time his numbers were lower was his rookie season with Milwaukee in 2005, before he hit at least 25 home runs in eight consecutive seasons (2006-13) with 106 or more RBIS seven times.
The 30-year-old Fielder’s goals this season are based on his health, not potential numbers.
“Usually I would say stay healthy just to give you an answer, but now I just really want to stay healthy,” he said. “It’s a real feeling now, while before it was just a protocol answer. Now I really want to be healthy enough for the whole year to see what happens.”
NOTES: INF/OF Elliot Johnson agreed to a minor league contract and will be at big league spring training. He was on Cleveland’s opening day roster last year, but played in only seven games before going to the minors for the rest of the season. He has a .215 average in 318 major league games with Tampa Bay (2008, 2011-12), Kansas City (2013), Atlanta (2013), and Cleveland (2014). He has played every position except pitcher and catcher.
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