Janesville73.9°

Fielder feasting at the plate

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McClatchy Tribune
June 9, 2009
— A look at the National League individual offensive statistics entering play Sunday revealed the kind of season Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder is putting together.

Tied for first with 54 runs batted in, leading in walks with 44, fifth in slugging percentage at .603, sixth with a .433 on-base percentage, tied for fourth with 27 extra-base hits, sixth in home runs with 15.


“He’s been phenomenal,” said leftfielder Ryan Braun. “He’s been as a good as any hitter in baseball, having good at-bats every day.


“Not necessarily just about the production or getting hits but just having good at-bats, going deep in the count, hitting the ball hard. He’s been taking his walks. And he’s driving the ball to all parts of the field. He’s been incredible.”


Hitting coach Dale Sveum said the key to Fielder’s success has been plate discipline. When pitchers have worked around him, he has taken his walks rather than chasing bad pitches.


“He’s swinging at strikes,” said Sveum. “He’s ready to hit; taking the pitches he can’t hit. He’s taking his walks and when he gets pitches to hit, he’s doing some damage.


“He’s a lot quieter with stride; he hasn’t been so hard (moving forward). He has lowered his front elbow. But the main thing is getting good pitches to hits. He’s not chasing as many pitches. The last few weeks, he has really taken off.”


Manager Ken Macha has been backing up Fielder in the lineup with Mike Cameron, followed by rookie Mat Gamel. If opponents start pitching around Fielder even more, Macha said others in the lineup must make them pay.


“It will be up to the guys behind him to drive in the runs if they continue to walk him,” said Macha. “He’s got to continue (to draw walks). Once he makes those guys throw the ball in the strike zone, he does damage.”


Fielder was dynamic for the most part during the Brewers’ seven-game trip to Florida and Atlanta. He went 12 for 26 (.461) with three home runs and six RBIs.


“He really has been unbelievable,” said Braun. “He has played well defensively as well. You can tell that he’s taking pride in getting better in all parts of his game.


“I think he wanted to become a more complete hitter, not just a power hitter. He wanted to become a better defensive player and you can really see it. He has worked hard at it and is reaping the benefits.”


St. Louis’ Albert Pujols is leading the fan balloting for the all-star game, but Braun said he fully expects Fielder to earn a spot in voting by the players.


“For sure, he’s on the all-star team,” said Braun. “Has to be.”


Getting closer

Right-hander Dave Bush, struck on the pitching arm by a line drive in his last start in Florida, threw a bullpen session before the series finale against Atlanta and reported no discomfort.


“He said his curveball was as good as it’s been in the first half,” said Macha. “He said he feels good.”


Still, Macha said he wanted to wait before announcing that Bush will take his next turn as scheduled Wednesday against Colorado.


“Before I commit to him pitching on Wednesday, I’m going to see how he feels,” said Macha. “He says he’s coming in for treatment (Monday). There’s a chance he will pitch on Wednesday.”


Macha then challenged reporters to a spelling bee by saying that Bush has “a lot of ecchymosis.”


The definition of ecchymosis: “The skin discoloration caused by the escape of blood into the tissues from ruptured blood vessels.”


In other words, Bush has a big, multi-colored bruise on his arm.


Fighting words

It remains to be seen if MLB will impose more discipline than merely a fine on centerfielder Mike Cameron, who was ejected during a heated exchange with home plate umpire Marvin Hudson over a called third strike Saturday night in the ninth inning.


The brim of Cameron’s helmet made contact with the brim of Hudson’s cap, pushing it back. Any contact with an umpire can lead to suspension, but Cameron said Hudson moved forward during the face-to-face argument, not Cameron.


“I would fight (a suspension),” said Cameron. “I definitely would.


“If you look at the tape, you’ll see I didn’t bump him. That’s up to (Hudson’s report), but I would fight it.”



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