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Brewers slugger Prince Fielder leaves for Detroit

The Milwaukee Brewers lost their most powerful hitter Tuesday, when free agent Prince Fielder agreed to a nine-year contract with the Detroit Tigers worth a reported $214 million.

If there was a surprise, it's that Fielder signed with Detroit, which was not considered to be in the running during all the speculation of where he might go. But the Tigers needed a designated hitter after losing Victor Martinez for the year to a torn knee.

The Brewers have known for two years that this day would probably come. Fielder's agent Scott Boras turned down a five-year, $100 million contract extension in the spring of 2010. Later that year, Boras said Milwaukee could re-sign Fielder for eight years and $176 million, but the talks never went further.

Still, Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin called it a "sad day." He said Fielder was a huge part of turning the Milwaukee organization around.

Melvin said he didn't even try to make an offer this winter, once Boras said he'd get $200 million for the 27-year-old first baseman.

If there's a saving grace for Milwaukee fans, it's that he'll play in the opposite league. And the Brewers will get two draft choices as compensation for losing Fielder.

Milwaukee gets Detroit's pick in the first round this summer, the 27th overall, plus a supplemental first-round selection.

Fielder missed six regular season games in his six years with Milwaukee, and just one game in the last three seasons. He has averaged 38 homers per year and hit 46 or more in two seasons.

Fielder's final home run in a Milwaukee uniform came in the eighth inning of Game 3 of the National League Championship Series against St. Louis at Miller Park.

The Cardinals creamed the Brewers on that Monday night, 12-3. About three-fourths of the fans had left before Fielder hit his final homer of 2011 - a monster shot to right.

Fielder also led Milwaukee to its first playoffs in 29 years with appearances in 2008 and 2011.

Fielder joins Miguel Cabrera as a one-two slugging punch for Detroit, which won the American League Central division by 15 games last year but lost to Texas in the AL Championship Series.

STATS Incorporated says Detroit will only be the second team in big league history to start a season with two players under 30 who have at least 200 career homers.

The 1961 Milwaukee Braves were the only other ones to achieve that with Hank Aaron and Eddie Matthews.

Fielder also returns to the city where he grew up, while his now-estranged father Cecil Fielder was starring for the Tigers. Yesterday, Cecil Fielder said he was "shocked" that his son chose Detroit, but he'll be comfortable there.

Departure gives Mat Gamel a chance

Prince Fielder's departure gives Mat Gamel one more chance to prove that he's Major League material. Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin has said that Gamel will most likely be the top candidate to replace Fielder at first base. He was moved to that spot last season from third in anticipation of Fielder's free-agent departure.

Gamel has virtually slammed the cover off the ball in the minors. But he has struggled in each of his call-ups to Milwaukee over the last four years.

One year, he didn't tell the Brewers about a lingering injury when he reported to spring training. Last fall, his Triple A manager Don Money said Gamel needed to "get his head right" if he wants to stay in the Majors.

Gamel was not part of the Brewers' minor league call-ups last September. Money hoped it would be a "wake-up call" after Taylor Green was promoted ahead of him.

Gamel hit .310 at Triple A Nashville in 2011 with 28 homers and 96 RBIs.

From now on, the only time the Brewers will play against Fielder is during Interleague play, and the World Series if both Milwaukee and Detroit get there. The Brewers will play three American League Central teams in this year's Interleague schedule, but Tigers are not among them.