LAKELAND, Fla. -- With his beefy frame and prodigious power, Prince Fielder doesn't look like a player who can simply blend into a lineup.
Somehow, the slugging first baseman did just that in his first season with the Detroit Tigers.
Fielder signed a $214 million deal early last year, arriving in Motown amid predictable fanfare. Then he hit .313 with 30 home runs and 108 RBIs in a Detroit debut that was largely devoid of drama.
With Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera hitting in front of him and Justin Verlander baffling hitters from the mound, Fielder's terrific production was almost overshadowed. And that's exactly how he prefers it.
"It's always good to be on a team when you have superstars who are cool guys. They know how to play the game," Fielder said. "Everyone here is a star, so it's not a big deal. I love that. The more attention off me, the better."
Detroit's pitchers and catchers went through their first spring training workout Tuesday, but the full squad doesn't start until later this week. Fielder appeared at a youth baseball field in Lakeland on Tuesday, joining around 100 youngsters for the unveiling of what was billed as the world's largest baseball card.
The card, created by the Topps Company, measured approximately 90 feet by 60 feet, leaving center field covered with the giant image of Fielder swinging.
That's about as ostentatious as it gets for Fielder these days. His violent, uppercut swing is in direct contrast with his persona. His goal each season is to be consistent and avoid major peaks and valleys.
That attitude may have rubbed off on the Tigers, who were a disappointment for much of 2012 but never panicked. They rallied late in the season to win both the AL Central and the American League pennant.
"I think it helped the team," said Don Kelly, an outfielder on last year's team. "He was pretty steady the whole time. He never got too high or too low. Just kind of stayed the same guy every day."
Perhaps that's why Fielder seemed so comfortable from the start. Some high-profile free agents might try too hard to have a big season after switching teams. Others might need time to adjust to new surroundings or opponents.
Fielder made the transition from the NL's Milwaukee Brewers look easy. His focus was on being the same hitter he's always been – nothing more, nothing less.
"They brought you over here because of what you do, not what they want to see you do better," Fielder told The Associated Press in an interview at the baseball card event. "My thing is just staying consistent and being healthy, because when you're healthy, that gives you the best chance to be consistent because you're on the field."
The 28-year-old Fielder has eight years left on his contract with Detroit, so his durability will be important. He played 162 games last season – the third time in four years he reached that mark.
Ever since he became a big league regular, Fielder has been loath to miss time if he's healthy enough to play.
"It just feels like I left the iron on," he said. "For me, it's a weird feeling, and I don't like that feeling."
Cabrera won the MVP last year, and Verlander nearly took his second straight Cy Young Award. Fielder teamed up with those two to lead the Tigers to the World Series.
Once there, he went 1 for 14 – but he wasn't the only Tiger who struggled. Detroit was shut out twice, had the third-lowest batting average in Series history at .159 and was swept by San Francisco.
"To lose the World Series, you've got to get there," Fielder said. "Disappointed by the loss, but we still achieved something great."
Hoping for their first title since 1984, the have added outfielder Torii Hunter. Designated hitter Victor Martinez is back after missing the whole 2012 season with a knee injury.
That means Fielder still shouldn't have to do anything special. If he's his usual self with the bat, the Tigers can score plenty.
"I thought he made a great transition last year – to come over here with all the expectations and everything," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "I think he might be even more comfortable this year."
Notes: Leyland stated the obvious before the workout, announcing Verlander as his opening day starter. ... Leyland also said he's not going to spend too much time harping on the competition for the No. 5 spot in the starting rotation. RHP Rick Porcello and LHP Drew Smyly are vying for that role. "I'm not going to give a day-by-day running of the Porcello-Smyly situation," Leyland said. The same holds true for prospect Bruce Rondon's attempt to become the team's closer. "I think the best way to deal with all these things is to just wait and see and let it play out," Leyland said.
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Where Should YOU Watch The Detroit Tigers Postseason?
Sports bars are not created equal, especially during playoff time. Some watering holes seem designed for heavy drinking during the heavy hitting.. while a couple old-timer joints are suddenly chock-full of retirees remembering the glory days of the boys in blue and orange. Are you a Detroit Tigers die-hard? A casual bandwagon fan? Or maybe you don't even like baseball. Wherever you fall in the lineup, click through the slideshow for our advice on where to park yourselves this playoff season. GO TIGERS!
The Sports Crowd: Detroit Beer Co.
Two huge bars, delicious draft beer and calorie-bomb platters of brewery-inspired food. They're all reasons why the Detroit Beer Co. gets a healthy (yet never overcrowded) audience of Tigers fans on game days. Best part, though. is the quality of those baseball watchers standing around the bar. If you like your Tigers television with a side of commentary and plenty of enthusiastic high-fives, you'll be in decidedly good company here. <a href="www.detroitbeerco.com/">Detroit Beer Co.</a> 1529 Broadway .1 miles from Comerica Park
The Relics: Nemo's
Maybe you wanna make a friendly wager on the ballgame, or you're the kind of guy who finds conversations about sabermetrics about as pesky as steroids.The patriarch of the Michigan and Trumbull neighborhood, Nemo's has been serving up drafts and grease-soaked sliders since before the Tigers made it to the World Series in '68. If you really do bleed Tiger blue, your classic evening of baseball awaits (and hey, take the Nemo's bus to the game!) <a href="http://www.nemosdetroit.com/">Nemo's Bar</a> 1384 Michigan Ave. One mile from Comerica Park
The Insiders: Park Bar
You know you've been around this city for a while when "garlic sauce" becomes a key factor in choosing a playoff-watching location. Park Bar's sumptuous shawarma sandwiches, seasoned curly fries and smooth hummus pretty much add up to the Triple Crown of baseball bar food. Quick drinks from the circular bar and easy street access for post-game people-watching make Park Bar about as logical a choice as Cabrera for MVP. <a href="http://www.parkbardetroit.com/Park_Bar_Detroit/Home.html">Park Bar</a> 2040 Park Ave. .1 miles from Comerica Park
The Loners: Nick's Gaslight Restaurant & Lounge
If you enjoy actually watching the baseball game and sipping a beer without drunks, casual fans and recent college graduates banging into your barstool for nine innings straight, this oft-overlooked downtown establishment has quick service and zero tolerance for fair-weather foolishness. We designate Nick's a steady addition to your game-day lineup. Nick's Gaslight Restaurant & Lounge 441 Grand River Ave. .4 miles to Comerica Park
The Urban Renewers Who Secretly Like Sports: Green Dot Stables
Just 'cause you make street art, or you're super-concerned with promoting local food systems or inspiring community-oriented discussions on the future of whatever... none of this means you aren't a baseball fan. Because you are. And you'll be craning your neck toward the televisions while your friends discuss the latest indoor-outdoor participatory installation-thing in your usual booth at Green Dot Stables. Don't think we're knocking this little gastropub that's singlehandedly spearheaded the resurgence of Corktown Shores. Tasty gourmet sliders + way cheap drink specials + Young Detroiters like you = the baseball bar of the future! <a href="http://greendotstables.com/">Green Dot Stables</a> 2200 W Lafayette Blvd 1.8 miles to Comerica Park
The Gourmands: Angelina Italian Bistro
How do you choose between Prince Fielder and homemade pasta? That's one heck of a riddle -- so we're happy to report that you actually don't have to. Not only is Angelina Italian Bistro located just steps from Comerica Park, but the elegantly-designed bar area features a large flat-screen television that's always tuned to Tigers baseball on game days. Business lunch? Here's another way to sneak in a couple innings. <a href="http://www.angelinadetroit.com">Angelina Italian Bistro</a> 1565 Broadway .1 miles to Comerica Park
The Fans Who Miss Old Tiger Stadium: St. Cece's
You are never going to forget Old Tiger Stadium or forgive George Jackson. Historic preservationists and those of us who loved The Corner feel a tad out of place in downtown's shiny stadium district. While nothing can bring back Briggs, you'll at least feel connected to a simpler time and place inside Corktown's beautifully restored St. Cece's Pub. And it's just a short stroll away from the vacant field that once stood for Detroit's storied baseball legacy <em>(and is sure to become a shopping mall.. any day now)</em> <a href="http://saintceces.com">St. Cece's Pub</a> 1426 Bagley 1.1 miles to Comerica Park
Wait Till November?
Nothing against these fine Detroit establishments, but we think they're missing a certain baseball <em>je ne sais quoi </em>needed to qualify as a logical playoff perch.
The Suburbanites: Hockeytown Cafe
Were you trying to go to this cool new restaurant you heard about called Slow's, and, well ... you just couldn't find the door ... so you came here instead? Those in the know generally steer clear of Hockeytown Cafe, mostly because it's like the Rainforest Cafe of Detroit sports bars. But whatever this multi-floor Ilitch emporium lacks in authenticity, it definitely makes up for it in terms of accessibility to Comerica Park, cheap drinks and freeway access for the long drive home. <a href="http://www.hockeytowncafe.com/">Hockeytown Cafe</a> 2301 Woodward .1 miles from Comerica Park
The Girls Who Don't Actually Like Baseball: Centaur Bar
You're more bundt cake than bunt call, honestly. You are pretty sure that the seventh-inning stretch isn't a yoga move. Maybe you bought a form-fitting Tigers zip-up sweatshirt to wear on a ballgame date.We're all for their gorgeous cocktails and appetizers, but Foxtown martini bar Centaur is a strikeout for serious playoff fans. Unless, of course, you're the kind of girl who doesn't actually like baseball -- but loves the idea of Cute Sporty Guys catching a glimpse of you through the floor-to-ceiling windows. And OMG, what if JV saunters over after the game for a celebratory chocolate martini? <a href="http://www.centaurbar.com/welcome.html">Centaur Bar</a> 2233 Park Ave, Detroit Distance from stadium: .2 miles
The People Who Will Be Blacked Out By The Eighth Inning, Anyway: The Bronx
We doubt that The Bronx even has a TV. But if your interest in the Tigers begins and ends with the thought that Jim Leyland would make for an excellent drinking companion, the cocktails at this unbeatable Cass Corridor watering hole are stiff enough to interest you. The Bronx Bar 4476 2nd Ave 1.5 miles to Comerica Park (Photo via <a href="http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/2xDUtzO7aSJHdj9-Kn2O-w?select=SwmcPtZdUOGIsvGRUwJYRg#SwmcPtZdUOGIsvGRUwJYRg">Yelp user o o</a>)