Texas Rangers slugger Prince Fielder is facing the prospect of season-ending neck surgery after an MRI revealed a herniated disk just above an area that was repaired two years ago.
Fielder and outfielder Shin-Soo Choo were placed on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday by the slumping AL West leaders, who had lost 12 of 16 games going into their game at the Los Angeles Angels.
Choo got an injection to help relieve lower-back discomfort.
General manager Jon Daniels said Fielder on Monday reported having similar symptoms to those he felt before the 2014 surgery that limited him to 42 games his first season with the Rangers. Fielder was feeling weakness and discomfort in his neck and left arm.
Dr. Robert Watkins, who examined both players in Los Angeles on Wednesday after MRIs the previous day, recommended surgery for Fielder after seeing the herniation between the C4 and C5 disks.
Daniels said Fielder will return to Texas and get a further evaluation Friday from Dr. Drew Dossett, a specialist who performed Fielder’s previous neck surgery.
Fielder had played in 547 consecutive games and hadn’t missed consecutive games since August 2007 before a cervical fusion of two disks in his neck in May 2014.
“The way it’s been described to me, when you fuse vertebrae, it puts the additional stress either above or below it in that joint,” Daniels said. “The fusion that he had is intact, there are no issues with that. But apparently somewhere along the line the herniated disk surfaced above that spot in his neck.”
Both Fielder and Choo are signed through the 2020 season. The Rangers traded second baseman Ian Kinsler to the Detroit Tigers for Fiedler in November 2013, and later that offseason signed free agent Choo to a $130 million, seven-year deal.
Fielder is hitting .212 with eight homers and 44 RBIs in 89 games this season. Choo is hitting .260, with a .372 on-base percentage, in 33 games.
In his short debut in 2014, Fielder hit .247 with three homers and 16 RBIs. Fielder rebounded with a .305 average, 23 homers and 98 RBIs in 158 games last year.
Daniels said he wasn’t sure how long Fielder had been feeling the symptoms, but was aware of the team’s primary DH commenting to some people that he was trying to fight through the discomfort.
“Some of the things we were seeing, the struggle for him to get the ball in the air pull side, very similar to some of the things that we were seeing early in 2014,” Daniels said. “I don’t know exactly for how long, but I think it’s reasonable to say this definitely did have an effect on his performance.”
Choo missed 54 games this season during two earlier stints on the disabled list. After missing 35 games because of a right calf injury, Choo returned for only one game before going back on the disabled list with a left hamstring issue.
“With Choo, we have a little more clarity,” Daniels said. “We expect him back in a couple of weeks.”
Texas recalled infielder Hanser Alberto and outfielder Delino DeShields from Triple-A Round Rock.