Lakeland, Fla. – He sensed the need for additional speed.
Ian Kinsler, the Tigers’ new second baseman, already has adjusted to the ballpark he’ll call home from now on.
Knowing that Comerica Park has wider gaps than The Rangers’ Ballpark in Arlington, where he used to play – and feeling a need to get back to his running game – Kinsler lost 10-15 pounds over the winter.
“I weigh a lot less than I normally do coming to spring training,” Kinsler said Sunday after arriving at his locker in the Tigers’ clubhouse. “I’m trying to regain my speed.”
Those not accustomed to Kinsler at his listed 200 pounds couldn’t have been expected to detect the difference.
But Joe Nathan, Kinsler’s teammate the last two years in Texas, noticed it.
“Right away,” said Nathan, “but it looks good on him.”
Kinsler, who will turn 32 in June, has stolen-base speed. That’s been proven over the years.
As recently as the 2011 season, he stole 30 bases. But in the last two years combined for the Rangers, the only team he’s played for in his eight-year major-league career, his average dropped to 18.
“I worked a lot on my starts (during the offseason}, as far as stealing bases,” Kinsler said. “Hopefully it pays off.”
He didn’t slim down with only the intention of stealing more bases, however. Twice in his career, Kinsler has had 40-plus doubles – and he’ll now play in a park where such a number is more reachable.
“I know the gaps are big in Detroit,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll be doing a lot of running, so I wanted to make sure I was in the best shape I could be in.
“The ballpark is definitely different, but so is the weather. Plus it’s a different style of team.
“My responsibilities here will be a little bit different (than they were in Texas). I feel I have to be on top of my game as far as running. It’s important for this club.”
Kinsler said he welcomes the atmosphere of being with a new team, and in new surroundings, although he drove around the parking lot at Marchant Stadium for a while wondering where the players park.
“It’s all new,” he said, “but it’s fresh and fun. I’m excited.
“The challenge is always the same. The challenge is to win the World Series no matter what team you’re on.
“This team,” said Kinsler, “has a great opportunity to do that. That’s mainly why I’m excited. But just coming to a new environment and having new teammates – guys I’ve played against, but really don’t know – is a new experience.
“When you get out of your comfort zone, it’s always good. There’s a lot of star power on this team, but a lot of depth also. I think this team is set up really nicely for a great season.”
But a great season from its second baseman would certainly help.
That’s not to say he has to hit the .319 he hit in 2008, but more than the .264 Kinsler has averaged since would help.
But he also has averaged 114 runs scored for every 162 games since 2008, so getting on base and scoring has remained a vital part of his game, even as his batting average has leveled off.
“Between the lines, I honestly could not be more excited (about the trade that brought him to the Tigers for Prince Fielder),” he said. “To come to a club like this, that’s been right there for many years in a row, is a great change.
“I can just come here and play ball.”
And maybe steal more than he’s been stealing.
Not to mention those doubles.
“I want to get back to being more of a line-drive hitter,” Kinsler said, “a guy who’s on base a lot and who gives the guy hitting behind me a lot more opportunities to drive in runs. “
That’s music to the manager, of course.
“That’s all his idea,” said Ausmus. “(Losing weight) wasn’t anything we ever talked about.
“My guess is that he self-evaluated at the end of last season and felt like this would help him.
“He’s been around. He knows his body well enough. But he wasn’t slow.”
But Kinsler wasn’t as quick as he felt he needed to be.
Or, better yet, as he intends to be in his first season as a Tiger.