Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler has 19 multi-hit games and is batting .317. (Robin Buckson / Detroit News)
Detroit — It was a day of uncertainty, followed by more days of questions and venom.
On Nov. 20, 2013, Ian Kinsler found out he was being traded from the Rangers to the Tigers for Prince Fielder. But he didn’t get the call from Rangers brass; Kinsler, on vacation in Hawaii, found out when a Dallas radio show host texted him.
Texas president and general manager Jon Daniels was on a plane and later left a voicemail for Kinsler, but the damage had been done.
Just as Fielder was leaving Detroit on bad terms after a surge of fan acrimony, Kinsler was exiting Texas with baggage, calling Daniels a “sleazeball” in a much publicized March interview with ESPN The Magazine.
Initially, Tigers fans were uncertain about what Kinsler would bring, but in the first quarter of the season, the Tigers seem to have gotten the better of the deal.
In the first seven weeks, Kinsler has been sizzling — with a .316 average and 20 RBIs — and Fielder fizzling, hitting .247 with three home runs.
“I’m over all the bitterness and emotion; I got over that a long time ago,” Kinsler said ahead of a four-game series between the teams beginning today at Comerica Park. “The (ESPN) article came out and the public appearance of my opinion of Texas was obviously negative and people are going to remember that.
“I’m on this team now and I couldn’t have asked for a better place to be.”
Fielder, meanwhile, drew the ire of Tigers fans with his malaise following the season-ending playoff loss last year.
“It isn’t really tough, man, for me (to move on),” said Fielder, who isn’t expected to play in the series because of a herniated disk in his neck. “It’s over. I have kids I have to take care of, so, for me it’s over.”
Part of Kinsler’s difficulty in Texas was being called upon to be a leader as the most tenured player on the team and one of the top offensive players. Moreover, Daniels looked to move younger players into the lineup and displace Kinsler at second base.
With a younger team, Kinsler had to do more, both on the field and in the clubhouse.
“You have to manage dress code, being on time for meetings, doing things right in batting practice, making sure guys are out for stretching, or whatever it may be — that just takes away from the game,” Kinsler said. “To be able to come here and honestly have those things already taken care of … it allows everything for me to be a lot easier.
“I can just play baseball, and that’s what I really want to do.”
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus knew what he was getting in Kinsler, having faced him several times as a player.
But, he also wanted to check whether his personality would meld with the veteran-laden Tigers roster.
“I played against him, (but) I didn’t know the guy,” Ausmus said. “I made a couple phone calls (to guys who played with him) about him.
“I knew he was a hard-nosed player. He always came across as a blue-collar player. I didn’t know the personality, which was far more entertaining than I expected.”
Because Ausmus and much of the coaching staff was new this season, the transition for Kinsler was easier despite being a past adversary.
“Obviously, as an opponent, I didn’t like them,” he said. “It was never fun playing against them but it’s impressive to see them every day.
“Guys respect what each other does and how good we are at this game and that’s probably been the most impressive thing with Justin (Verlander) and Miguel (Cabrera) and Victor (Martinez) — every day, they do something that’s impressive.”
Although he and Fielder will be linked by the trade, Kinsler doesn’t buy into the comparisons between the two stars.
“The way I see it, I’m a second baseman, he’s a first baseman and we’re completely different styles of players,” Kinsler said. “Obviously, we were traded for each other. I’m never going to compare myself to Prince Fielder.
“I’m trying to win and I’m not trying to live up to what he did here or what the fans expect of me or anything like that.”
A look at Ian Kinsler and Prince Fielder, the players involved in a Tigers-Rangers trade during the offseason (through 41 games):
On deck: Rangers
Series: Four games, today-Sunday, Comerica Park, Detroit
First pitch: 1:08 today and Sunday, 7:08 p.m. Friday; 4:08 p.m. Saturday
TV/radio: FSD today-Friday and Sunday, FS1 on Saturday/97.1
Probables: Today — RHP Yu Darvish (3-2, 2.32) vs. LHP Robbie Ray (1-0, 0.75); Friday — RHP Scott Baker (0-0, 3.38) vs. RHP Anibal Sanchez (1-2, 2.89); Saturday — RHP Nick Martinez (0-1, 2.28) vs. RHP Rick Porcello (7-1, 2.91); Sunday — RHP Colby Lewis (3-3, 5.40) vs. RHP Justin Verlander (5-3, 3.55)
■ Darvish: After four-start winning streak in which he had a 1.61 ERA, he’s 2-2 with a 3.08 his last four.
■ Ray: First start since May 11, but worked 2⁄3 innings of relief in Boston last weekend (19 pitches).