04/14/2013 3:22 PM ET
Prince hitting at torrid pace to start second AL season
By Willie Bans / Special to MLB.com
OAKLAND -- Early in Prince Fielder's second season in the American League, the slugger is an offensive machine. Some viewers, like Justin Verlander and Jim Leyland, think it's because of him getting used to the pitching in the AL.
Verlander even predicted this may be the year Fielder gets an MVP.
"I don't think it's any stretch of the imagination that he has a good chance of being an MVP in this league," Verlander said after Detrioit's win against Oakland on Saturday.
It's just 11 games in, but these are classic episodes of a player who is locked in. Fielder entered Sunday's game against the A's leading all qualified players in batting average (.436) and on-base percentage (.520), is third in RBIs (18) and slugging percentage (.846), and tied for fourth in hits (17).
Oh, and he also got the go-ahead run Saturday with a solo homer in the fourth inning.
The AL setting and pitching seems to suit Fielder as well as the NL did with the Brewers.
"The more exposure you get to pitchers, the better you know them, the more it helps you out," Leyland said. "There's no question about that. He's just a real good hitter. ... No. 1, he's super strong. No. 2, [he's] got a very short swing. Short swing and powerful through the ball."
Leyland compared Fielder's swing to a former Oakland A's player, Mark McGwire.
"People thought he had a long swing, but McGwire had a very short swing," Leyland said. "Long through the ball."
Tigers waiting on definitive roles for bullpen
OAKLAND -- There will be a day, Jim Leyland believes, when the Tigers' bullpen will have roles sorted out for its relievers. That day has not been any of the team's 11 games thus far, and that day was not Sunday.
For now, there's "no sense of organization" or "order" in the bullpen, Leyland said.
The causes: performance, and reliever-heavy games like Friday's 12-inning loss and Saturday's win, in which Justin Verlander had several lengthy innings that restricted the workhorse to six frames total.
"In fairness to the guys, they're in here, they're in there, they're in here, they're in there," Leyland said. "We don't really have anything etched in stone because we're still searching. But that'll happen."
Three relievers are unavailable Sunday: Joaquin Benoit (rest), Octavio Dotel (elbow inflammation) and Drew Smyly (rest). So that means Detroit has four available arms in the bullpen: Darin Downs, Phil Coke, Al Alburquerque and Rick Porcello.
Leyland is as much managing the bullpen as evaluating it.
"We're walking too many guys out of the bullpen," Leyland said. "We'll get in some sense of order here before long. One thing about it, they're all getting to pitch, see if they can get some outs. They're all getting their opportunities to get some outs for us, which we said they would coming out of Spring Training."
• Torii Hunter is two home runs away from 300 in his career. There are 16 active Major League players with 300 or more home runs.
• Entering Sunday's game, the Tigers led the AL in batting average (.304), hits (122) and on-base percentage (.362)
• Alex Avila was back at catcher and in the starting lineup Sunday. He was unavailable Saturday because he was hit in the head on a swing Friday and took a foul pitch off his right shin while hitting.
Willie Bans is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.