Gil LeBreton

Rangers’ rebound depends on Prince Fielder’s recovery

With a wary eye toward 2015, the Texas Rangers had to be pleased with what they saw Sunday in, of all places, the Seahawks-Broncos NFL game.

No, this is not another puff piece about Russell Wilson, the franchise’s unofficial show pony.

It’s the way the other quarterback in that game played — Denver’s Peyton Manning — that should have the Rangers encouraged.

The spinal fusion surgery that Manning underwent three years ago was similar to the cervical fusion procedure that was performed on Rangers slugger Prince Fielder in May.

Manning, with one post-surgical Super Bowl appearance already on his résumé, has not shown his skills to be diminished in any way.

And Fielder?

“He’s already swinging the bat,” Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said Tuesday.

“I think if the calendar had fallen a little differently we could have ramped him up.”

There is much to do this coming off-season for Daniels and the Rangers. There’s at least one spot in the starting rotation to fill. The lineup also needs to find a power bat.

But it all could again unravel quickly, Daniels agreed, if Fielder, Shin-Soo Choo and Yu Darvish aren’t 100 percent healthy and ready to go.

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“No doubt,” Daniels said. “We have a lot invested in those guys, and we believe in them. Prince and Choo are big offensive pieces for us. We have to get them healthy and right.”

Choo underwent procedures to remove a bone spur from his elbow and to repair cartilage in his left ankle.

Darvish last pitched Aug. 9 before being shut down for the rest of the season with right elbow inflammation.

“He should be good to go,” Daniels said of Darvish. “He’ll probably go home to Japan and be back here in November and undergo a scan.”

According to team doctors, the right-hander is “asymptomatic.”

He has not, however, resumed any throwing program.

“To what end?” Daniels said, when asked why.

The Rangers begin Wednesday with a 64-93 record, long since eliminated from any possible postseason play. The club has set major league records for players (64) and pitchers (40) used in a season.

New faces have been forced into the major league fire, and some have impressed.

“That’s the silver lining to some of this stuff,” Daniels said. “You may not have gotten to see Jake Smolinski or [Lisalverto] Bonilla or Phil Klein. And would we have seen this out of Neftali Feliz if he had only been a seventh-inning pitcher?”

Combined, Fielder, Choo and Darvish are scheduled to earn $48 million next season. Together, they represent a major question that the Rangers have to see answered.

“When Dr. [Drew] Dossett originally performed the operation on Prince, we didn’t really want to say it at the time, but he thought there was a chance that Prince could return in time to get a few at-bats in September,” Daniels said. “But the way the season unfolded, there was no reason to take that risk.”

The Manning and Fielder surgeries apparently were not identical. But Fielder doesn’t have to be bulldozed by 280-pound linemen a dozen times per game.

All three key players — Darvish, Fielder and Choo — are expected to have a routine off-season, Daniels said.

They must, or it won’t matter who the Rangers’ new starter, new bat or new manager will be.

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