Kinsler adjusts winter workouts to ready for new club
Second baseman drops weight, focuses on baserunning to prep for spacious park
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Ian Kinsler spent a few extra minutes driving around the parking lot at Joker Marchant Stadium as he reported to Tigers camp Sunday. It wasn't just the circus tent set up nearby that threw him off.
He wasn't sure where to find the players' parking lot.
"The Cirque Italia? Is that what it is?" Kinsler asked reporters. "I thought that was the locker room, to be honest with you."
It's hard to blame Kinsler for being a little lost. Sunday was his first "first day" since 2003. After 11 years in the Rangers' organization, the Tigers' new second baseman said he was "ecstatic" to get a fresh start this Spring Training.
"I honestly couldn't be more excited," Kinsler said. "To come to a club like this and a team that's been right there for many years in a row is a great change.
"To leave behind what I know as far as the ins and outs of the whole organization is honestly refreshing. To get to come to a place where I don't have to worry about certain moves or trades or all the stuff that goes into baseball that I hear just through relationships that I've developed over the years, I don't have to worry about that anymore. I can just come here and play ball. I'm really excited about that."
Standing in front of his new locker with a No. 3 next to his name, Kinsler said he had an inkling he might be traded over the offseason. The deal went down in November, with the Tigers sending Prince Fielder to Texas and Kinsler heading to Detroit. Kinsler said he didn't feel betrayed or let down by the Rangers, only concerned for his family's comfort considering the fact that they live in Dallas.
In fact, Kinsler said, the Tigers were an ideal landing spot for him. He had a list of 10 teams on his no-trade list and left off potential contenders. Detroit, he said, was No. 1 on his list of potential landing spots in the American League.
"It's a place that I felt I had a very strong opportunity to win a World Series," Kinsler said. "I knew it was a possibility. It wasn't really my choice of where I got traded to, but when it's all said and done, you think about what happened and I was happy about how it all played out."
With that in mind, Kinsler tailored his offseason work to his new environment. He showed up Sunday weighing about 10 or 15 pounds less than he ever has when reporting to Spring Training. He doesn't have to worry about losing weight in the Texas heat this summer, and he wanted to regain his speed in order to take advantage of Comerica Park's spacious outfield.
Kinsler spent extra time working on his leads on the basepaths and stealing bases. The 31-year-old second baseman put together two 30-30 seasons with the Rangers in 2009 and '11, but he only hit 13 homers and stole 15 bases in 136 games last year. He still put together a .277/.344/.413 batting line and drove in 72 runs, but he's hoping he'll get to run a little more in '14.
"I want to get back to [being] more of a line-drive-type hitter, a guy that's on base a lot more and gives the guys behind me a lot more opportunities to drive in runs. That's the goal regardless of where I'm hitting and who's behind me," Kinsler said. "[Comerica Park is] spacious. You get a ball past an outfielder in that ballpark, you should be looking for three regardless of what line it's on."
With Fielder out, and Kinsler and Rajai Davis on board, Detroit's entire offense could follow Kinsler's lead and take on a more speedy offensive profile.
"You've got different personnel. I think it is a different team. You have different assets than you had a year ago, so you adjust accordingly," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "Kinsler's ability is different than Prince Fielder's ability. Davis' abilities bring a new dynamic that maybe wasn't here a year ago."
Meanwhile, everything seems to be new for Kinsler this year, from the weight on the scale Sunday to the names above each locker and the parking lot he found himself winding around early Sunday morning.
The only thing that hasn't changed for Kinsler this spring is the goal he's set in his mind for October.
"I don't know if it's a new challenge. The challenge is always the same. The challenge is to win a World Series with the team that you're on. This team has a great opportunity to do that," Kinsler said. "So that's mainly what I'm excited for, but just coming to a new environment, having new teammates, a lot of guys that I really don't know ... it's just a new experience. To get out of your comfort zone is always good."