April 6, 2013 at 3:50 am

Terry Foster

Prince Fielder puts pop in Tigers' Opening Day

Detroit -- Prince Fielder has hit 262 home runs.

So rounding the bases in a home run trot is nothing new.

The three-run blast in the fifth inning Friday against the Yankees?

Well, that meant a little more. You could tell by the little jump-skip and hop near second base and the ferocity in which he pounded the bases. It may not have been the "shot heard 'round the world," but it made Comerica Park jump, erased a 3-2 deficit, and propelled the Tigers to an 8-3 victory over the Yankees.

"I was just a little excited," Fielder said. "It put our team ahead. Anytime you can get some runs for your team it is great."

Fielder also hit a home run later that broke the game open.

The home runs were important for a couple reasons: They gave the Tigers a victory, and they might have sparked what has been a stagnant offense to start the season.

Finding his groove

We talk a lot about how important Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera are to the Tigers. And it's talk that's well-deserved considering they have won the last two American League MVP awards.

Fielder's just as important.

He's the man in the middle, batting fourth between Cabrera and Victor Martinez.

Fielder was a disappointment in the opening series against the Twins, failing to move runners or drive them in. He hit .167 with one RBI as the Tigers dropped two of three.

His timing just seemed off.

But, you could tell he was getting it back when he pinned current Yankees and former Tigers outfielder Brennnan Boesch to the wall on a screaming line drive Boesch caught. ("Jerk," Fielder said, breaking into a big laugh.)

"In baseball, you can make it up the next day," Fielder said. "It is not the best feeling (when you don't hit well), but like I said, you can make it up. You still are thinking about what you did yesterday, but today is a new day."

MVP candidate

Tigers fans, however, won't base Fielder's success on the regular season alone.

It's the postseason that matters.

Last year, he hit .134 in the playoffs with one home run and three RBIs. Overall, Fielder is hitting .182 in the postseason with five home runs and 11 RBIs.

Still, if Fielder can get going now, we might be talking a third straight MVP for the Tigers come season's end.

"Particularly with power hitters, you never know when they are going to explode," manager Jim Leyland said. "They can explode at any time.

"Prince Fielder is an outstanding hitter. He is a better pure hitter than I thought he was. We are really blessed here. When you have Cabrera and Fielder both … they are really good pure hitters."

And when both are rolling, the Tigers are unstoppable.


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Tigers slugger Prince Fielder is congratulated by Miguel Cabrera after hitting a three-run homer in the fifth inning Friday. / Elizabeth Conley/Detroit News
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