Extra Bases: Fielder, Andrus still struggling

April, 30, 2014
4/30/14
8:00
AM CT
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Prince Fielder's April struggles have garnered most of the headlines, and that makes sense. He was the left-handed power bat the Texas Rangers traded an All-Star second baseman to acquire this offseason, and he hasn't produced.

Barring one of the best games of his career, Fielder will complete one of the worst -- if not the worst -- statistical months of his career.

[+] EnlargePrince Fielder
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsDefensive shifts coaxed a lot of groundouts in Fielder's first month as a Ranger.
He's hitting .202 and is 5-for-28 with runners in scoring position. Of Fielder's 83 outs in play, 44 are ground balls. Teams have consistently shifted against Fielder, and he's consistently grounded into the shift.

The Fielder who has driven balls deep during his career hasn't yet shown up in a Rangers uniform. If he's unable to do much tonight, Fielder will likely produce his worst month since June 2006.

Rangers manager Ron Washington has tried Fielder in the 3 hole in front of Adrian Beltre and also as the cleanup hitter behind him. So far, nothing has worked in getting the slugger going.

Interestingly, Fielder went the other way against the shift in his final two at-bats on Tuesday, getting an RBI single on a hard-hit ball that nicked Josh Donaldson's glove in the fifth.

But Fielder isn't the only Ranger who is struggling to find a rhythm. Elvis Andrus is batting .233 this month with five RBIs. He is just 3-for-34 in his past nine games, and he's 1-for-19 with runners in scoring position.

"He's not getting through the baseball like he was earlier," Washington said of Andrus. "He's topping a lot of stuff. But, then again, he's smoked some stuff that's been caught, too. I hope we're not going to go through a month of that again. It seems like when the game's been on the line, he's been giving us his best at-bats."

Perhaps changing the calendar from April to May will get both players going. For this offense to be more consistent, which was the goal in signing Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo, it needs Andrus and Fielder producing at a much higher level than they did in April.

Pitchers taking swings: The Rangers' first interleague road games are Monday and Tuesday at the Colorado Rockies. In preparation, the pitchers got some swings in batting practice prior to last night’s game.

Many of the club's starting pitchers, along with a few long relievers, practiced bunting and did take some full swings. So who's the best hitting pitcher on the team?

"Yu [Darvish] can make contact, and that gives him a good chance to square up on some balls," starting pitcher Colby Lewis said. "Robbie Ross Jr. has a little power, too."

Matt Harrison did not participate, as he's recovering from back surgery and won't be pitching against the Rockies. As of now, Martin Perez and Ross would be the two starters in that series. The Rangers plan on not skipping anyone in the rotation with Thursday's off day, instead choosing to give their arms an extra day of rest.

Washington just wants his pitchers to get bunts down and avoid injuries. Alexi Ogando was injured in San Francisco in 2012 trying to beat out a hit. The skipper doesn't want to see a repeat.

"Don't be trying to beat out ground balls," Washington said. "But that's just words. When you're competing, you're just reacting. Just keep it simple."

Leftovers: We talked in Tuesday's Extra Bases about the critical role Nick Martinez played in saving the bullpen. The Rangers decided not to make a roster move for Martinez on Tuesday, figuring they had enough arms in the bullpen to handle it if needed.

Martinez's five innings of shutout relief on Monday made him one of just five pitchers in the past eight seasons with at least five innings of scoreless relief in the first three career outings. He's also just the fourth Ranger in the past 17 seasons with at least five shutout innings in relief and the first since Kameron Loe in 2008.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Adrian Beltre
BA HR RBI R
.324 19 77 79
OTHER LEADERS
HRA. Beltre 19
RBIA. Beltre 77
RA. Beltre 79
OPSA. Beltre .879
WC. Lewis 10
ERAC. Lewis 5.18
SOY. Darvish 182