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NL is learning to fear Fielder

Fielder has paced the Brewers' climb to the top of the NL Central.

By EDUARDO A. ENCINA
Published June 10, 2007


First baseman Prince Fielder, recipient of the NL player of the month award for May, shies away from attention, once but no longer easy to do in Milwaukee.

Fielder has paced the Brewers' climb to the top of the NL Central. Even when they sputtered in May, he kept pace, batting .321 with 13 home runs and 28 RBIs. The homer total is a franchise record for any month.

"It's cool, but it probably means more to my wife and kids, " said Fielder, who receives a high-definition LCD television from the league. "I just want to keep playing. My wife always says, 'You shouldn't tell people how good you are. Let them tell you how good you are.' "

The 23-year-old son of former big-league slugger Cecil Fielder is one of baseball's rising stars. He's already looking to eclipse numbers from last year, when he hit .271 with 28 home runs and 81 RBIs. He is distancing himself from the league with 22 homers teammate J.J. Hardy is second with 16 and is second with 49 RBIs.

"We know what we have in Prince, and I think the rest of the league is starting to understand exactly who he is and what he is. He's a pretty special player, " manager Ned Yost said.

"There's not a lot of guys in this league or baseball that intimidate you, " Yost said. "I think Gary Sheffield was always one, Barry Bonds was one, Derrek Lee, (Albert) Pujols is definitely one. When it's all said and done, Prince is going to be one of those guys that opposing managers look to see what he's doing."

FIRST TIMER: The Angels' Orlando Cabrera has positioned himself to make a strong bid for his first All-Star Game.

Cabrera, 32, had his 25th multihit game of the season Wednesday and leads all AL shortstops in fielding percentage. Since the beginning of May, he is batting .380 (52-for-137).

"Orlando has played at an All-Star level for a lot of years, " said his manager, Mike Scioscia. "That's a tough position to crack the All-Star team. That doesn't mean it won't happen for him. ... Defensively, he's like a machine.

"He doesn't take any at-bats off. He's as consistent as anyone I've seen at that position."

RED WITH ENVY: Only 10 percent of the players Cincinnati has drafted in the first five rounds during the past six years (six out of 60) have reached the majors.

Included on the Reds' list of busts are No. 1 drafted pitchers Ty Howington (1999), Chris Gruler (2002) and current Indian Jeremy Sowers, who was taken in 2001 when the Reds had no money to sign a No. 1 and knew Sowers was going to Vanderbilt.

The Tigers own the best success rate in that category with 39.7 percent (23-for-58).

THE RIGHT FORMULA: The Nationals have used an NL-high nine starters and 17 pitchers overall. (Atlanta and Florida have used a league-high 19 pitchers.)

It's nothing new for fifth-year pitching coach Randy St. Claire. In 2004, the then-Expos used 12 starters and 22 pitchers overall. In 2005, the Nationals used 15 starters and 25 pitchers. Last year was worse: 12 starters, 29 pitchers overall.

"It's more challenging because you have to do more work with all the guys, " St. Claire said of the high-volume assignment. "When you have a veteran-laden staff, they pretty much have their own game plan. But one of the things I enjoy with this is working with these guys and seeing them make progress."

AROUND THE HORN: The Cardinals are six games under .500 and as close to first place - 51/2 games - as they've been since they trailed by 4 1/2 on April 29. "We're trying to sniff .500, " manager Tony La Russa said. "Our goal is to be a winning club. First place doesn't have anything to do with it." ... Padres closer Trevor Hoffman, 39, became the first to record 500 saves, a feat that some of his teammates can't fathom. "Five hundred, God almighty. I don't even have 500 appearances, " said fellow reliever Doug Brocail, 40, who has 491 appearances. "I never thought Lee Smith's record would be broken. I'd like to see Hoffy get 600. He's gotten this far. Why not add a century?" ... At his current pace, LHP C.C. Sabathia has a chance to become Cleveland's first 20-game winner since Gaylord Perry went 21-13 in 1974. ... The Phillies have 9, 986 total losses and are on the verge of becoming the first team in the history of professional sports to lose 10, 000 games. ... Cardinals pitcher Mark Mulder (September shoulder surgery), a Rays offseason target, is throwing off the mound at Busch Stadium. The Cards are projecting a late July return.

Quote board

"I bought a bottle of champagne for him two months ago, and now it's froze."

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen on pitcher Mark Buehrle, who has been unsuccessful in seven attempts at his 100th career win

"I'm fair, and I let people play. What can I do? If there are problems, you don't let them fester. Look, when you lose, a lot of people have their opinions on it."

Cubs manager Lou Piniella on juggling a roster that makes it difficult to give players enough game time

"Guess I'll have to hit about 12 home runs this month to make it legitimate."

Reds outfielder Josh Hamilton on being told he received 57, 013 All-Star Game write-in votes

"I showed my solidarity. I'll grow a beard. I'll shave my legs. I don't know about my head."

Outfielder Shawn Green on the Mets' recent head-shaving frenzy

Eduardo A. Encina can be reached at eencina@sptimes.com.