- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 24, 2012

DETROIT (AP) - The Detroit Tigers responded to a jarring injury with an audacious move.

Free-agent first baseman Prince Fielder and the Tigers agreed Tuesday to a nine-year, $214 million contract that fills the AL Central champions’ need for a power hitter, a person familiar with the deal said.

Detroit boldly stepped up in the Fielder sweepstakes after the recent knee injury to star Victor Martinez. A week ago, the Tigers announced the productive designated hitter could miss the entire season after tearing his left ACL during offseason conditioning.

CBS first reported the agreement with Fielder.

The person told The Associated Press the deal was subject to a physical. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the contract was not yet complete.

The Tigers won their division by 15 games before losing in the AL championship series to Texas. Adding the 27-year-old Fielder gives the Tigers two of the game’s premier sluggers, pairing him with Miguel Cabrera.

With Fielder now in the fold, general manager Dave Dombrowski and owner Mike Ilitch have a team that figures to enter the 2012 season as a favorite to repeat in the division _ with an eye on winning the franchise’s first World Series title since 1984.

“Everyone knew Mr. Ilitch and Mr. Dombrowski were going to make a move when Victor went down,” outfielder Brennan Boesch said in a phone interview with the AP. “But I don’t think anybody thought it would be this big.”

The move also keeps Fielder’s name in the Tigers‘ family. His father, Cecil, became a big league star when he returned to the majors from Japan and hit 51 home runs with Detroit in 1990. Cecil played with the Tigers into the 1996 season, and young Prince made a name for himself by hitting prodigious home runs in batting practice at Tiger Stadium.

A few years ago, when Prince returned to Detroit as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers, Tigers Hall of Famer Al Kaline recalled that power show.

“You can’t ever say that you look at a kid that age and say that you know he’s going to hit 40 or 50 home runs someday, but Prince was unbelievable,” Kaline said then. “Here’s a 12-year-old kid commonly hitting homers at a big league ballpark.”

In an interview with MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM, Cecil Fielder said he was “shocked” by the news that Prince was heading to Detroit.

“He’s been there in Detroit most of his young life so I think he’ll be comfortable in that place,” Cecil Fielder said. “I know Mr. Ilitch is probably excited because he’s been wanting that kid since he was a little kid, so he finally got his wish.”

With Cabrera and Fielder, Detroit will begin this season with two players under age 30 with at least 200 career homers. According to STATS LLC, that’s happened only once before. At the start of the 1961 season, the Milwaukee Braves featured 29-year-old Eddie Mathews (338 homers) and 27-year-old Hank Aaron (219).

Several teams had shown interest this winter in Fielder, who had spent his entire career with the Brewers. He visited Texas, and the Washington Nationals also got involved in the discussions.

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