05/03/09 8:15 PM ET
Improving Fields OK with power outage
Slugger getting on base more consistently in two-hole
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
Try 23 home runs in 373 big-league at-bats, covering exactly 100 games.
Now that Fields has assumed the full-time starting job at third base, instead of just serving as Joe Crede's injury replacement, his power potential hasn't been quite as evident. Try one home run through 83 at-bats entering Sunday night's series finale in Texas.
Yet, Fields' early lack of consistency for clearing the fences actually points to how he's a better fit for the current White Sox attack and a healthier player overall. Regardless of the reasons, Fields isn't worried about this long ball drought.
"I think the only time you start thinking about it and it gets in your head is when the other guys around you are hitting home runs," said Fields with a laugh. "It's kind of hard to sit there in the two-hole with Carlos [Quentin] popping home runs.
"Right now, my role in the two-hole is different, seeing pitches and drawing some walks. And as long as we are winning games, I'm going to stay exactly like I'm doing."
Through the first 22 games of 2009, Fields has been a veritable on-base machine. The 26-year-old reached base in 19 of those games, courtesy of 22 hits and 11 walks. He featured a .358 on-base percentage and led the team in free passes, although his slugging percentage checked in at .373, compared to .480 in 2007.
Fields also stands as one of six White Sox everyday players with double-digit RBIs. His responsibilities are different, though, as the second hitter, balancing the ability to drive in Scott Podsednik and/or Brent Lillibridge along with leadoff man Chris Getz moving back through the order, but at the same time, looking to work the count and set up the run-producers behind him.
Having two healthy knees also has returned the speed component to an individual who swiped 28 bases for Triple-A Charlotte in 2006.
"When my knee was hurt in 2007, I was concentrating more on staying in the box longer and produced more of a powerful swing," Fields said. "Now, I can get out of the box better. I beat out a couple of infield hits with two strikes, and I never have been able to do that the last couple of years.
"My average will be up higher, but there will still be plenty of opportunities to drive in runs and hit for power. Certain at-bats now, I'll take more pitches than I probably would like, but other at-bats, I'm up there first-pitch swinging if it's a good pitch. There's a different kind of mentality that I had to take."
An ultimate driving force for Fields is the overall success of Chicago. As of Sunday, the club was bunched at the top of the American League Central with Kansas City, Detroit and Minnesota, and in Fields' estimation, without the offense clicking all at the same time.
That future outburst probably will include a few more Fields' home runs, but it's not of vital importance to the third baseman.
"If things go bad, I might have to start swinging for the fences," said Fields with a smile. "But if it's not broken, don't fix it. I'm accepting singles and not getting upset with a 1-for-3 with a walk."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.