Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler earns high praise from fellow All-Stars and teammates Miguel Cabrera and Max Scherzer. (Robin Buckson / Detroit News)
Minneapolis — After the Tigers traded for Ian Kinsler, the second baseman said he didn’t have any expectations for how he’d perform on his new team.
Had he written specific goals, there’s a good chance Kinsler would’ve exceeded them in a first half that earned him a reserve spot on the American League All-Star team.
“He’s our MVP,” Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera said Monday. “He brings a lot of energy to our ball club. He brings us speed, defense.
“I think he’s one of the reasons why we’re in first place right now. He’s a guy who goes out there every day and plays hard, and we appreciate that.”
Kinsler’s statistics in 2014 suggest the trade rejuvenated him a bit after spending the past eight seasons with the Texas Rangers, who received first baseman Prince Fielder in the deal.
Kinsler is hitting .303 this season, which would be his highest average since 2008. He also has 11 home runs and 26 doubles, which both put him on pace to exceed his numbers from 2013.
“I was just coming in, trying to help the team any way I could,” Kinsler said. “Obviously hitting in front of Miguel and Victor (Martinez) is a great spot to be. I didn’t know how it was all going to work, but I see a lot more fastballs.”
Kinsler was the leadoff man in Texas, hitting before shortstop Elvis Andrus. The speedy combination worked well for the Rangers, but Kinsler likes his spot in the Tigers’ lineup.
“It’s a little different hitting in front of Elvis as opposed to Miguel Cabrera,” he said. “Miguel moves me three bases instead of one.”
But Max Scherzer said Kinsler’s bat isn’t the only thing that’s made him an integral addition. Kinsler has 10 steals already and just two errors at second base.
“It’s unfair just to talk about his bat … because of what he’s able to do defensively for us and what he’s able to do on the base paths,” Scherzer said.
That all-around game has given Kinsler instant credibility in the clubhouse, though he was an All-Star three times for the Rangers.
“He’s a guy that always shows up to beat the other team,” Martinez said. “This is my first year being his teammate, and I love him. When you see him, he’s ready to play.
“I used to hate him when I played against him. Honestly, I didn’t like him because he’s a good player. He hurts you.”
And if Kinsler sees his teammates giving lackluster effort, he’ll speak up.
“He looks at you and he gets mad at you when he doesn’t see you try,” Cabrera said. “And he’s right.”