CHICAGO -- Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter said Tuesday in an interview on 105.1 FM in Detroit that Prince Fielder's struggles this season could be related to off-field issues, but the Tigers first baseman said before Tuesday's game against the White Sox that "everything's fine."
"No matter what's going on, on the field or off … us as players, we really know what's going on and we appreciate him going out there every day despite …" Hunter said before getting cut off by the host.
The interview sparked much interest in Detroit, where Tigers fans wondered what could be hindering Fielder's play.
When told by reporters that Hunter's comments had created a story in Detroit, Fielder responded by saying, "Yeah? Well, I'm gonna turn the story off. It's fine. Everything's fine."
Hunter, who said he spoke to Fielder on Tuesday afternoon about the interview, expanded on his comments. Hunter said he was waiting to go on air when the host started talking about Fielder, who is hitting .261/.352/.432 with 17 home runs and 81 RBIs this season, his second in Detroit after signing a nine-year, $214 million contract before last season.
"I was just saying that everybody goes through something," Hunter said. "They were talking about Prince and I said, 'Man, you don't know what's going on in that man's life. Anything could be going on, but that guy goes out there every day and he plays the game hard. But nobody knows what's really going on in his personal life.'"
Hunter said he was just trying to defend Fielder.
"That's my teammate. That's my brother," Hunter said. "We're all brothers in this clubhouse, so we take care of each other."
Fielder said whatever he might be going through is no one's business. Hunter echoed those comments.
"He's just like everybody else. He's going through some things -- I'm going through some things. A lot," Hunter said. "Just because we make money, we're not human anymore? We've all got family issues, trust me. But you won't ever see it. … This is my safe haven. This is his safe haven."
Whatever the reason, Fielder has tailed off this year after hitting .313/.412/.528 a season ago.
That's especially true of late. Entering play Tuesday, Fielder was hitting .221 with five homers and 40 strikeouts in 199 at-bats in his last 50 games, during which his batting average had fallen 31 points (.292 to .261).
Tigers manager Jim Leyland said Fielder seems to have expanded the strike zone -- as his higher strikeout total indicates -- but said that could be because of all the "nasty" left-handers the Tigers have faced lately.
But it's been more than that, according ESPN Stats and Info.
In a blog post Tuesday, ESPN reported that Fielder is slugging .456 and striking out almost one-third of the time against offspeed pitches from right-handers this year, compared to a Major League-leading .654 mark and a 24 swing-and-miss percentage in 2011.
Also, per ESPN Stats and Info, Fielder is slugging .404 -- 115th in the Majors -- against fastballs this season, compared to a .607 slugging percentage in 2011, which ranked 16th in the Majors.
Iglesias draws accolades for defensive gem
CHICAGO -- Tigers catcher Brayan Pena, 31 years old and a nine-year Major League veteran, called shortstop Jose Iglesias' play in Monday's sixth inning the best he's ever seen.
It was a phenomenal play, no doubt, as Iglesias fielded a broken-back blooper off the bat of White Sox catcher Josh Phegley, barehanded it and threw to first in one motion while falling to the ground.
It wasn't only Pena who thought it was the best he's ever seen. Tigers manager Jim Leyland -- in his 49th season of professional baseball -- did too.
"The play he made last night was as good a play at shortstop as I've ever seen," Leyland said Tuesday. "I just don't know how he made that play. I've never seen a better play. I'm sure I've seen some just as good somewhere along the line, but off the top of my head, that's as good as I've ever seen."
Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter -- who called it the best play he's seen live -- heaped more praise on Iglesias on Monday night. Hunter said the quickness in which Iglesias gets the ball out of his glove ranks among the best his seen -- including Hall of Fame second baseman Roberto Alomar.
Although Leyland wouldn't yet rank Iglesias in that regard, he said he's thrilled with the young shortstop.
"He's a very instinctive guy. He smells the ball," Leyland said. "And he's a tough at-bat, too. He's going to have some moments, but he grinds out that at-bat real good. I really, really like him. He's a special talent."
Alburquerque working himself into trouble
CHICAGO -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland won't necessarily say he's "concerned" about Al Alburquerque, but there's no question the right-handed reliever has struggled lately.
Alburquerque was charged with two runs in one-plus innings in Monday's 6-2 loss to the White Sox, surrendering consecutive singles to begin the eighth after throwing 13 pitches in the seventh.
"I don't know if 'concerned' is the right word, but he didn't throw many pitches that first inning and in that situation, he's got to be able to come out and give us a second inning," Leyland said Monday night. "He just got in trouble and wasn't able to do it."
That's been the theme lately for Alburquerque, who has given up at least one run in three of his last four outings -- including a walk-off single to Yankees center fielder Brett Gardner on Friday.
The 27-year-old right-hander has a 5.51 ERA in 32 2/3 innings.
Tigers catcher Brayan Pena said Alburquerque -- who allowed three hits, all singles, on Monday -- suggested the White Sox simply took advantage of balls left up in the strike zone.
"He left a couple pitches up a little bit," Pena said. "He knows that. He's very mad at himself. He's pretty upset, because he knows he can make better pitchers than that. But he's a very strong guy. Mentally, I know that right now he's thinking about it. But I know tomorrow he's going to regroup."
Tigers fan chronicles Comerica Park experience
CHICAGO -- Longtime Tigers fan Mike Gentz on Tuesday shared his story of an experience he and his two sons had at Comerica Park earlier this year on the Tigers' site of SB Nation's blog network.
Gentz wrote an essay at BlessYouBoys.com chronicling his day at Comerica Park on July 30 against the Nationals, when he and his sons met a handful of Tigers players as guests of the club.
The Gentz family was invited to Comerica Park after several of Mike's friends wrote the club about Mike, who on April 2 lost his wife, Dawn, after a battle with melanoma.
Mike and Dawn were both Tigers fans -- though Dawn first rooted for the Braves -- and the two attended more than 100 games together, Mike wrote, including the 2005 All-Star Game and Home Run Derby.
He also wrote of the emotions he felt later that night while in his hotel room at the Motor City Casino, which the Tigers also arranged.
"Here I was, in the middle of the most difficult year of my life, looking across the city I've never been afraid of, toward the ballpark of the team I've never fallen out of love with, having just been guests of this same team who I've loudly cheered for and criticized all my life. Truly, for me, summer goes as the Tigers go, and it's always been that way," Gentz wrote.
"Now, this summer, which is like none I've ever dealt with before, pushed the Tigers to the backseat a bit as I learn how to live this new life of mine. But for one night, they thanked me and they showed me that I am, and their fans are, more than just a seat filler. I can't thank my friends and the Tigers enough."
• Reliever Octavio Dotel (right elbow inflammation) threw a scoreless inning on Monday for Class A Advanced Lakeland and felt good, head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said. Dotel is scheduled to throw again Wednesday, but Leyland said the team hasn't set a timetable for his return.
• Catcher Alex Avila (delayed concussive symptoms) will not be cleared for any activity until his symptoms are gone, Rand said. Avila was placed on the seven-day disabled list retroactive to Sunday.
• Top prospect Nick Castellanos is day to day after getting hit on the right wrist on Saturday at Triple-A Toledo, Rand said. X-rays were negative.
• The Tigers added internal catching depth on Tuesday, acquiring Minor League catcher Ronny Paulino from Baltimore for cash considerations. Paulino was sent to Toledo.