Rangers’ Prince Fielder is back at the top of his game

CINCINNATI (AP) – Prince Fielder takes the same approach to just about everything he does: keep things nice and easy.

Coming back from major neck surgery. No problem.

Facing NL MVP and Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw when it’s tied at Tuesday night’s All-Star Game. Hey, it’s cool.

You’ll get no complaints from this laid-back, tattooed Texas Rangers slugger.

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“It’s just fun to play baseball, especially against that kind of talent,” Fielder said.

Fielder is that kind of talent.

He ripped a single the opposite way to left field to give the American League a lead in the fifth, then had a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning of a 6-3 victory over the National League.

The lefty-swinging All-Star DH used the same approach against Kershaw as he does against everyone else, even though he’s 3 for 15 in the regular season when facing the Dodgers’ ace.

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“I’m not cerebral when I hit, I just try to react,” Fielder said. “I’m just ready for the fastball and then I got to play aggressive pepper.”

Well, does a hit off your nemesis feel better than other hits?

“I don’t care if my kids are pitching,” he said.

The 31-year-old Fielder has been hitting a ton this year, batting .339 with a league-leading 114 hits, 14 homers and 54 RBIs – helping the Rangers remain competitive in the AL West. His fun-loving nature keeps teammates laughing, too.

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For example, he had everyone in the Texas dugout cracking up when he took a face-first flop around third base and couldn’t conceal his smile afterward.

His efforts this year earned him his sixth All-Star trip and a chance to win his third Home Run Derby – he lost to eventual champion Todd Frazier in the first round.

And that’s after missing most of last season, his first with Texas, because he had cervical fusion of two disks in his neck. Before that, he had played 547 consecutive games since 2010, then the longest active streak in the majors.

He’s got a contract that exceeds $200 million. He’s hit 50 homers in a season and driven in more than 140 runs in a year, too. But those aren’t the accomplishments he’s focused on. It’s the satisfaction of returning from a major injury and having the success he’s had this year.

“Definitely feels good to be healthy and be able to come back and contribute,” he said.