LAKELAND, Fla. — New Detroit Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler doesn't mind admitting he had gotten comfortable in Texas.
Until his trade to the Tigers in the offseason for slugger Prince Fielder, Kinsler had spent his entire professional career in the Texas Rangers organization. He said he had an inkling after last season that he was on the trade block. He also said he was excited about a change.
With the rumors swirling, Kinsler ended up with the Tigers who needed fielding and speed. The Tigers finished last in the American League in 2013 with only 35 stolen bases, 114 behind the Rangers. New Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said he wants to run more this year. Speedy Austin Jackson led the Tigers with eight steals as the Tigers relied on their sluggers, including Fielder, to knock in runs.
With the trade of Fielder, the Tigers received Kinsler, who stole 15 bases for the Rangers last year, but has stolen more than 20 bases three times. In addition to Kinsler, the Tigers added Rajai Davis, who stole 45 bases for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2013.
Kinsler was one of several high-profile additions for the Tigers during the offseason. He isn’t expected to hit with Fielder’s power, but his line-drive hitting might be better suited for Comerica Park, which is a haven for line drive hitters, not sluggers. Kinsler lost nearly 20 pounds in the offseason once he was informed of the trade.
“I like Comerica Park and wanted to lose weight,” Kinsler said after reporting to Tigers camp Sunday. “I wanted to get faster and get back to hitting line drives. If you hit it in the gap out there, you should get at least three [bases] out of it. I have more chances to run and set up the heart of the order. I never had to lose weight in Texas. As hot as it was, it was easy over there. I had to try to add weight over there. Now I have to lose it. I’m ready to go right now.”
Ausmus said that the additions of Kinsler and Davis change the dynamics of the lineup. Former manager Jim Leyland wasn't big on stealing bases and his recent teams tended to be cautious on the bases. Ausmus said things might be different this season, his first as a major league manager.
“Kinsler and Davis bring us the opportunity to get some more stolen bases,” Ausmus said. “With Jackson and Torii Hunter to go with them, we have some speed this year. It is a different team with a different personality.”
Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski said the discussions on the Fielder-for-Kinsler trade went quickly and set the new running philosophy into motion.
“We wanted more speed, but if you look at last year's team, we had very few places where we could just add speed to the order,” Dombrowski said. We had to find a way and the Prince trade set everything into motion. We’ll be faster this year.”
Kinsler batted .277 with 13 homers and 72 RBI for the Rangers last season, but said he was prepared for a trade.
“I wanted to go to a contender,” said Kinsler, who lost two World Series with the Rangers. “It is a place I feel very strongly has a chance to win a World Series. It will be a new experience and I am excited to get out of my comfort zone. I love the park, it suits me, and I can run. We have star power on this team and I worked hard to lose those pounds because I expect to do a lot of running this year.”
NOTES: Once again, C Victor Martinez is working as a catcher during the daily bullpen sessions. Ausmus said Martinez will see duty behind the plate this season, especially during early interleague play. Ausmus said Martinez will be limited. “There’s no way he’ll catch 100 games this year,” Ausmus said. “He’ll work, but not as much as the other catchers.” ... Ausmus has started a new clubhouse ritual just before opening morning practice. The players and coaches get together and talk about not only baseball, but whatever is on their minds. Some of it, Ausmus said, is just good-natured kidding around. “It gives us a chance to laugh and laugh at each other,” he said. “It’s all in fun and to loosen things up.”... The Tigers will host their first full-squad meeting Tuesday even though most key position players have already reported. ... The Tigers agreed to terms with six players on contracts for 2014 including right-handed pitcher Jose Valdez. Other players that the team announced Monday that it reached agreement with are left-handed pitcher Casey Crosby, catcher Ramon Cabrera, infielders Jordan Lennerton and Eugenio Suarez and outfielder Daniel Fields. Contract details weren’t disclosed.