Fielder hopes to be healed, ready for Spring Training
First baseman unable to do any baseball-related activities since neck surgery
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers and Prince Fielder are hopeful he'll be ready to go for Spring Training in 2015, but for now, the first baseman is still unable to do anything baseball related, and coming back this season is not on his radar.
"Right now, I'm not even thinking about that. I'm just trying to heal," Fielder said. "Whatever happens, happens. But right now, I'm just trying to focus on the rehab and the healing process."
The Rangers announced May 22 that Fielder would have a season-ending operation for a herniated disk in his neck, and Dr. Drew Dossett performed the surgery May 27.
Fielder, speaking for the first time Thursday since the announcement, said he has been able to do a little bit of work on his neck, shoulder and hip muscles, as well as his core, but added that he's proceeding with caution.
"Nothing too high impact or anything," Fielder said.
Fielder said he doesn't remember when the pain first occurred, but he said that it got to the point where the pain would bother him in normal everyday activities -- even those that were non-baseball related. He also said he didn't have much feeling in his left hand and arm.
Manager Ron Washington said the Rangers hope Fielder's recovery is healthy and effective, but that with the state they're in right now, they have other more immediate issues to address. The club currently has the lowest winning percentage in the Majors.
"What happened, we couldn't prevent," Washington said. "We can't sit around and think about what's been, because we've got so many things we have to straighten out. We feel he'll get a full recovery, hopefully he'll stay healthy and be as productive as he was in the past."
Fielder wouldn't fully blame his neck injury on his struggle to produce offensively -- hitting .247 with three home runs through 42 games -- but he did acknowledge the constant irritation.
"I don't think it helped, how about that?" he said. "It definitely doesn't help trying to hit with a herniated disk."
Though he wishes he could contribute to the struggling Rangers, for now, patience is Fielder's biggest priority.
Fielder said he's motivated to heal as quickly as possible, but that he has to be smart with his recovery. Not listening to his neck was what landed him on the disabled list in the first place, he added.
His doctors don't have another athlete to compare him to with a similar injury and recovery process, but Fielder said that he trusts both his doctor and physical therapist, and that all should be well again once he gives the neck sufficient healing time.
"Right now, not really worried about the baseball part. Worried about just actually letting it fuse and letting it heal," Fielder said. "Baseball stuff, that'll be there, obviously, but I just want to heal first before I do anything. Once I get cleared to do something, I don't know how to do under 100 percent."
To pass the time, Fielder has been spending extra time with his wife and kids, as well as with his teammates.
"Wife sends me on errands here and there ... but it's fun," Fielder said. "I'm trying to make the best of it. I can't play, so there's no reason to walk around pouting about it. I'm just trying to enjoy more time with my family, and I think I'm appreciating the game more as far as it just being fun. Not really worrying about results anymore. Once I get back, I just really want to have fun and just play."
Fielder also participated in a photo shoot for the cover of ESPN The Magazine's Body Issue, which will hit the stands Friday.
Fielder said so far the response to that decision has been positive.
"Happy I did it, it was pretty cool," Fielder said. "You don't have to have a six pack to play sports or to be an athlete, so I figured I'd give it a shot, see how it looks."
This is the first time since he was 6 years old that Fielder has had so much free time on his hands. He said he began playing baseball every summer when he was either 8 or 9 years old, and that his injury has allowed him to develop a deeper appreciation for the game.
"It's nothing to forget about. I had an injury. Had a good run of not getting injured and playing every day, so things like this happen. Wish it didn't, but it did," Fielder said. "Just the actual game -- I miss that part of it, which I know I took for granted sometimes."
Grace Raynor is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.