Torii explains comments, defends Prince

Torii explains comments, defends Prince

CHICAGO -- Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter said Tuesday in an interview on 105.1 FM in Detroit that Prince Fielder's struggles this season could be related to off-field issues, but the Tigers first baseman said before Tuesday's game against the White Sox that "everything's fine."

"No matter what's going on, on the field or off … us as players, we really know what's going on and we appreciate him going out there every day despite …" Hunter said before getting cut off by the host.

The interview sparked much interest in Detroit, where Tigers fans wondered what could be hindering Fielder's play.

When told by reporters that Hunter's comments had created a story in Detroit, Fielder responded by saying, "Yeah? Well, I'm gonna turn the story off. It's fine. Everything's fine."

Hunter, who said he spoke to Fielder on Tuesday afternoon about the interview, expanded on his comments. Hunter said he was waiting to go on air when the host started talking about Fielder, who is hitting .261/.352/.432 with 17 home runs and 81 RBIs this season, his second in Detroit after signing a nine-year, $214 million contract before last season.

"I was just saying that everybody goes through something," Hunter said. "They were talking about Prince and I said, 'Man, you don't know what's going on in that man's life. Anything could be going on, but that guy goes out there every day and he plays the game hard. But nobody knows what's really going on in his personal life.'"

Hunter said he was just trying to defend Fielder.

"That's my teammate. That's my brother," Hunter said. "We're all brothers in this clubhouse, so we take care of each other."

Fielder said whatever he might be going through is no one's business. Hunter echoed those comments.

"He's just like everybody else. He's going through some things -- I'm going through some things. A lot," Hunter said. "Just because we make money, we're not human anymore? We've all got family issues, trust me. But you won't ever see it. … This is my safe haven. This is his safe haven."

Whatever the reason, Fielder has tailed off this year after hitting .313/.412/.528 a season ago.

That's especially true of late. Entering play Tuesday, Fielder was hitting .221 with five homers and 40 strikeouts in 199 at-bats in his last 50 games, during which his batting average had fallen 31 points (.292 to .261).

Tigers manager Jim Leyland said Fielder seems to have expanded the strike zone -- as his higher strikeout total indicates -- but said that could be because of all the "nasty" left-handers the Tigers have faced lately.

But it's been more than that, according ESPN Stats and Info.

In a blog post Tuesday, ESPN reported that Fielder is slugging .456 and striking out almost one-third of the time against offspeed pitches from right-handers this year, compared to a Major League-leading .654 mark and a 24 swing-and-miss percentage in 2011.

Also, per ESPN Stats and Info, Fielder is slugging .404 -- 115th in the Majors -- against fastballs this season, compared to a .607 slugging percentage in 2011, which ranked 16th in the Majors.

Cash Kruth is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @cashkruth. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.