Healthy Fields finding his swing at Tigers camp

Healthy Fields finding his swing at Tigers camp

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Daniel Fields is healthy, he emphasized. Considering the way his last season and a half have gone with wrist, hand and oblique injuries, that's the biggest thing.

Get Fields healthy and give him at-bats, and the Tigers prospect has a chance to show his swing. He showed it Saturday when he crushed a home run to right-center field at Champion Stadium off a Braves non-roster lefty.

"Nice, clean swing," Fields recalled Sunday morning with a smile. "I've been working on that all offseason."

Tigers manager Brad Ausmus took notice.

"That was a nice swing," Ausmus said. "He hit that ball a ton. That wind was kind of blowing across the ball, almost in a little bit. That ball was hit a ton to get out.

"I'll be honest with you: I didn't know that Daniel Fields had that much power."

His muscular, athletic frame -- he's listed at 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds -- would suggest it's there. His Minor League numbers - 35 home runs and a .371 slugging percentage in 1,922 career at-bats -- would not.

"I know the power is definitely in there," Fields said. "It's just about staying healthy, getting the at-bats and producing. And I know I can do that kind of stuff."

It's early, but Fields is making the most of his at-bats. He followed up his home run with a bloop single Sunday, improving him to 5-for-11 so far this spring. Three have gone for extra bases. His only hitless game was his meeting with Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard and the Mets.

Nearly six years have passed since the Tigers signed Fields out of high school and away from the University of Michigan. It wasn't an easy decision for him, but the chance to play for his hometown team, the team for which his father played in 1986, was too enticing to let pass.

If he's going to get back to Detroit, this is a huge year for him.

"Sometimes, it just takes time," said his father, Tigers roving hitting instructor Bruce Fields.

The younger Fields just turned 24 in January, and unless something crazy happens, he'll return to Triple-A Toledo, where he spent last season. He fits the profile of what the Tigers want in an extra outfielder right now -- an athletic left-handed hitter who can swing for power and play all three outfield positions.

If not for the broken hand that interrupted his 2014 season, he might be on the doorstep.

"The first month of April I struggled," he said, noting a 12-for-71 start, "but in May, I started feeling pretty good [batting .321], like, 'This is me right here.' Then to break my hand, I was mad and upset. Then being out for two months and trying to come back, that was tough.

"That was one of the toughest seasons I've had. In the end, I think it's going to make me a better player, because I've learned from that, learned what I need to do."

Fields put a leg kick into his swing to try to create power, then struggled to recreate it after the injury. That's gone now. His swing is uncomplicated, as is his approach.

"I feel great," he said, "but I know there's a lot more work that I need to do."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.