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Fielder focused on being consistent

Fielder focused on being consistent

MILWAUKEE -- If slow and steady is boring, then Prince Fielder is having a real snoozer of a season.

The Brewers first baseman is in the middle of a remarkably consistent campaign that had him atop the Major League leaderboard with 67 RBIs until Sunday, when Fielder was blanked in Detroit while the Cardinals' Albert Pujols drove in six runs to surge into the lead with 68.

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In terms of consistency, Fielder has Pujols beat. Somewhat incredibly, given the hot-and-cold nature of hitting, Fielder has not gone more than three games without an RBI all year, and he's had only two such droughts. Pujols has 10 RBIs in his past three games, but he's had droughts this season of four and five games.

Fielder considers Pujols the best hitter in the game. He doesn't mind being mentioned in the same breath.

"I don't know if I've ever seen that guy have a bad day," Fielder said. "Anytime an 0-for-10 is a big deal, you know you're pretty good."

Fielder is considered pretty good himself.

"The more consistent you are, the better chance you have to help your team on a daily basis," he said. "That's what made good players great -- that they're consistent. I've been trying to get better to the point that I can help my team win on a daily basis."

Mission accomplished for Fielder, who wants to be known as a hitter, not just a home run hitter.

He hasn't always thought this way. When the Brewers selected Fielder at No. 7 overall in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft -- a pick panned as a "reach" by many observers -- he was considered the best high school power bat in the Draft. But many scouts worried that Fielder wouldn't be able to play the field and that he couldn't do much more than hit home runs.

This season, he has been flirting with .300. Fielder's batting average was over that mark before he went hitless in his final seven at-bats in Detroit over the weekend. He'll step to the plate against the Twins on Tuesday with a .299 average and 17 home runs.

"I used to want to hit, and hit it 600 feet at the same time," Fielder said. "Over time, you realize that less is more."

When he was a kid, more was more. Fielder tagged along with his dad, big league slugger Cecil Fielder, during Cecil's impressive 13-year career. As Fielder got older and stronger, he began to wow in batting practice. The most legendary story has him belting home runs to the upper deck of old Tiger Stadium.

Not that the younger Fielder gets cheated today. When new Brewers manager Ken Macha was asked in Spring Training for his early impressions of his first baseman, Macha's simple response was, "He swings hard." It's a mantra Macha has repeated a number of times since.

"I still swing hard, but I'm not thinking as big," Fielder said. "Know what I mean?"

Meaning, he's just as happy -- maybe even happier -- with a couple of key bloop hits as he is after a 500-foot home run.

"When you do that, that's when you become a great RBI guy," said Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun, who bats third in the order ahead of Fielder. "He's going to hit his home runs, he's going to hit his doubles. But when you take all of the other RBIs that are given to you, you get great. He's worked hard at it."

Said Fielder: "Thinking that way makes it easier for me to sleep at night, too, because I don't like making outs. Going 1-for-5 with a homer is fine, but I want to try to do something in those other at-bats."

Fielder did have a monster game last week in Cleveland, when he set a career high with six RBIs and belted his first career grand slam, a go-ahead homer at that in a stunning 14-12 Brewers win.

He could have gone oh-for the rest of the road trip and still had an acceptable week. But Fielder doesn't think that way. Never has.

"If anything, that would make me more mad," he said. "When I get six RBIs, I want 10. But I'm learning to not do too much -- stay within myself, go up the middle for some nice base hits."

Make no mistake, Fielder still enjoys the long home runs. He's not on good terms with his dad these days, but Cecil Fielder was known to hit some big ones in his day, including the only homer to sail over the bleachers at old County Stadium. Cecil hit that long shot off former All-Star closer Dan Plesac in a 1991 game against the Brewers.

Prince Fielder figures that he learned his power swing from watching his dad.

"The older I get and the more I see myself, the more I'm like, 'Wow, that's kind of similar,'" Fielder said. "That's all right."

Macha doesn't think Fielder, who is only 25, has peaked just yet.

"This might sound stupid, but there's still a lot more," Macha said. "He still goes out of the zone at times, gets a little anxious with guys on base. That all comes the more you do it. I think he'll become even more dangerous."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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