Prince says 'everything is smooth' with swing

Rangers slugger missed most of 2014 season due to neck injury

Prince says 'everything is smooth' with swing

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Morning rain canceled the Rangers' planned intrasquad game for Monday, but that didn't impact Prince Fielder. He and Adrian Beltre were among those who were going to pass on the fraternal competition and wait until the Cactus League begins.

That means Wednesday against the Royals is the target date for Fielder to play in his first game since May 16. At that point, the Rangers will start getting a real measure for where Fielder is at offensively in his return from surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck.

Amid all other intrigue in camp, Fielder's comeback still carries the heaviest consequence for the Rangers' season. The boom in the bat is badly needed.

"Good … everything is smooth," Fielder said. "My legs are not sore so it's all good."

The swing is the biggest concern. Fielder hasn't faced live pitching in 9 1/2 months. So far it has been simple batting practice on the back fields where Rangers officials watch carefully to see if there is any rust in the swing or bad habits ingrained from playing with a neck injury for maybe a year before it was finally corrected by surgery.

"He's doing OK," hitting coach Dave Magadan said, "He's a typical veteran player who is just trying to get his timing. We are trying to solidify some of the stuff we talked about in the offseason. Last year he was crashing into the ball, now we're getting him to hold his ground. Timing is huge. With him it's going as well as expected. Once he gets into the flow of games and gets his timing down, everybody will see a big difference."

Magadan's term for "crashing into the ball" means Fielder was jumping out on pitches rather than sitting back, getting into a good hitting position and then letting it rip.

"The goal is to hold your ground and get the ball into the air on the pull side," Magadan said. "When he does that, it means he is going good."

Outlook: Fielder, 1B, TEX

Layoffs and compensation for physical issues can lead to bad habits at the plate. But Fielder suggested that wasn't the case with the herniated disk that was causing weakness on his left side.

"I couldn't move," Fielder said. "I couldn't move enough to get into any kind of habits. It wasn't a bad swing. I just had no power. I got to the ball decently, there just wasn't anything there. I wasn't strong enough to complete my swing."

Surgery to repair the herniated disk was the first step, followed by a summer of rehabilitation and a winter of normal workouts. Now the goal is to put everything back together, especially a swing that averaged 35 home runs per season from 2006-13. It is the swing that generated enough power to win the Home Run Derby in 2009 and '12.

"It's fine, you don't lose your swing," Fielder said. "You don't forget how to play. I just want to square up a few balls. You do that one time and things will start feeling good."

Having passed on the intrasquad games, Fielder will likely get his first chance on Wednesday.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.