Tigers' Fielder locked in to start the season

Tigers' Fielder locked in to start the season

Published Apr. 13, 2013 8:38 p.m. ET

What started as a joke in spring training is quickly turning into reality.

Justin Verlander won the American League MVP award in 2011 and Miguel Cabrera
captured the award in 2012, people began to speculate on which Tiger could
be next to take the prize.

Naturally, the first name mentioned was Prince Fielder.

28, in his first season with the Tigers last year and also his
first season in the American League, batted .313 with 30 home runs and
108 RBIs.

Those numbers would have been huge news had Fielder not
had Triple Crown-winner Cabrera hitting before him. Cabrera batted .330
with 44 home runs and 139 RBIs.

Fielder hit his fourth home run
of the season in the fourth inning Saturday in Oakland, giving the
Tigers a 2-1 lead over the A's, a game the Tigers eventually won 7-3.

"That boy is locked in," FOX Sports Detroit analyst Rod Allen said after the home run. "He is absolutely locked in."

The understated Fielder basically shrugged off his early success.

just trying to see it and hit it hard," Fielder told FOX Sports
Detroit's John Keating on the postgame show. "It's working out right

You can say that again.

Fielder had another hit and two walks in the game, lifting his average to a robust .436.

can see by the way he's laying off bad pitches (that) he's picking up
the ball real good, seeing it real good and he's putting a good swing on
it," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "This guy's not just a power
hitter, this guy's just a real good hitter."

As he was last year
by Cabrera, Fielder's day got overshadowed by Jhonny Peralta's three-run
home run and Torii Hunter, who crushed Brett Anderson's pitch for a
home run estimated at 463 feet, the second longest this season.

"That was a great swing," Fielder said of Hunter's shot. "That was awesome to see."

been awesome for Tigers fans is that with 18 RBIs in 11 games, Fielder
is second in the league to Baltimore's Chris Davis, who has 19.

Hunter, who got an up-close and personal view of Fielder all spring, predicted this as early as the home opener on April 5.

can do more," Hunter said. "Last year, he was just trying to feel out
the league. It's hard when you're coming from the National League and
you don't know the American League pitchers, the way they pitch. We
pitch different here in the American League. Last year he was just
trying to feel it out and he still hit .313. But this year, I think he's
been around the block a couple times with the American League pitching
and you saw what happened.

"I think he's ready to play and do some damage."