Fresh start with Rangers suits Fielder

ARLINGTON, Texas — Prince Fielder showed up at Rangers Ballpark Monday ready for a fresh start with the Texas Rangers.

It’s starting with a new number, as the new Ranger will don No. 84 for Texas.

Where it goes from there remains to be seen, but Fielder made it clear he’s ready to begin the next phase of his career with the Rangers.

“I just wanted a new number,” Fielder said of the change to 84, which was also the year he was born. “A fresh start. A fresh number.”

It’s not like Fielder put up bad numbers in his two years in Detroit. He hit 55 home runs and drove in 214 over that span but was criticized for his attitude and his struggles in the postseason. Fielder, who is signed through 2020 after being acquired last week for Ian Kinsler, understands where some of the criticism came from but he’s not dwelling on it anymore.

“Last year was last year,” said Fielder, who hit .279 with the Tigers in 2013 and had a career low 25 home runs. “Everybody was on me a little bit about my performance, rightfully so. I sucked but I didn’t have to be reminded of it. Hopefully we can make some better memories here.”

He’ll have a chance to start making those memories as the No. 3 hitter for the Rangers. He’s protected two-time AL Most Valuable Player winner Miguel Cabrera for the last two years in the Detroit lineup. Now manager Ron Washington would like to see what Fielder can do with Adrian Beltre hitting cleanup behind him.

Fielder said that idea sounded outstanding to him. Even though he’s hitting in a new spot, the Rangers aren’t expecting Fielder to get them back to the postseason by himself.

“We’re not bringing him (here) to put us on his back,” Washington said. “We’re just bringing him here to fit in and do what he’s done all his career to this point. Just having him in this lineup will make a difference in the rest of the guys in the lineup.”

Fielder also wants his fresh start with the Rangers to include the proper image of him. He was criticized in Detroit for what some considered a lack of effort. Fielder doesn’t see it that way. He said if he would have been the type of player to throw helmets when he was upset, he would have been criticized for being a “crybaby,” which isn’t the case for someone who’s played in a major league high 505 consecutive games.

Washington said players like Fielder and Beltre, who play every day, have an impact on the rest of the club without saying a thing.

The Rangers have no doubts about Fielder’s passion for baseball.

“I know from people we talked to he’s got a tremendous reputation as a teammate and a competitor,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “That’s one of the things I like about this guy. He plays hard every day. That doesn’t mean you’re going to be successful every time out there. His reputation as a teammate is very, very good. Guys have bad stretches.”

Fielder said his goal now is to find his way in a new clubhouse.

“I just want to be part of the team first,” he said. “I just want to get to know everybody. I’ll speak up from time to time, but I try to lead by example. I just play hard and all of that will take care of itself. I’m not trying to come in and be Captain Badass or anything.”

Fielder comes to a winning team as a winner. He’s been to the postseason in each of the last three years. While he’s struggled at the plate in his 39 playoff games (.194 average, five homers, 11 RBI), he’s at least been there.

He’s hoping his fresh start in Texas includes more of the same in that regard.

“Any time an organization wants you here it makes you feel welcome,” said Fielder, who was courted by the Rangers before he signed with Detroit before the 2012 season. “It just makes you get comfortable much sooner. I’m excited. I want to come here, play hard and win games.”