Fielder, Darvish feeling good and ready for Rangers return
DALLAS (AP) The Texas Rangers are getting back a slugger and an ace.
''I'll play a pickup game right now. I'm ready to go,'' Fielder said Friday night before the team's awards dinner. ''I'm good, I'm 100 percent, whatever it was before is back.''
Fielder played only 42 games in his first season with Texas before a cervical fusion of two disks in his neck last May. He had appeared in 547 consecutive games since 2010 before that, and hadn't missed consecutive games since August 2007.
Darvish didn't pitch after Aug. 9 because of right elbow inflammation. With the Rangers on their way to 95 losses and a last-place finish, the team held out its three-time All-Star for the rest of the season.
''My elbow is feeling great,'' Darvish said through his translator. ''Not this past offseason, but the one before, I wasn't able to do my training, especially strengthening. But this offseason I was able to work on my strengthening program, and then I'm feeling great right now. My back and my lower back is feeling great, too.''
Last offseason, Texas traded second baseman Ian Kinsler to Detroit in a swap of All-Stars with the expectation of Fielder providing a big bat in the lineup to go with Adrian Beltre. Fielder is signed through 2020.
But Fielder hit only .247 with three home runs and 16 RBIs before the pain in his neck got ''to a point where I couldn't ignore it anymore.'' He has repeatedly said he's not sure when it started hurting, and if that was before the trade from the Tigers.
His surgery was the same one Peyton Manning had in 2011 before the quarterback joined the Denver Broncos, winning a fifth MVP award and going to another Super Bowl following the 2013 season. The 38-year-old Manning, who made it back to the playoffs this season, is eight years older than Fielder.
''If he can do it playing football, I should be all right playing baseball,'' Fielder said.
Fielder seemed upbeat in his first public appearance in the Dallas area since last season.
''He looks good, he told me he feels good, and is just hoping that he can stay that way the whole season,'' Beltre said. ''We all know what he can do. And if he goes back to his form of being healthy, I think it's going to be really good for us.''
Both Fielder and Darvish said it was difficult to watch and not be able to help as the Rangers struggled to their most losses since 1985.
''My kids, my wife ... I drove them crazy. I'm sure they were tired of seeing me all the time,'' Fielder said. ''I just tried to live through my kids. I think I wanted to play catch with them more than they did with me.''
While the Rangers are still waiting to see the real Fielder, Darvish is 39-25 in 83 starts over his three seasons since leaving Japan. He was 10-7 with a 3.06 ERA with 182 strikeouts in 144 1-3 innings last year.
Darvish built a gym at his house this offseason with a goal to prepare to stay healthy throughout the season. The Rangers said Darvish would likely throw off a mound for the first time Feb. 2.
''It won't be any different than any other season,'' Darvish said. ''The date is not set. It could be earlier than Feb. 2, or later than that.''