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Kinsler’s intense offseason workout slows aging process

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler smiles as he runs a warm up drill.

Lakeland, Fla. — The smirk nearly gave away the punchline.

Manager Brad Ausmus was asked Saturday morning how impressed he was that Ian Kinsler could win a Gold Glove at second base at the age of 34.

“It’s almost as good as a catcher getting one in his mid-30s,” he said.

Ba-dum-bump.

Ausmus. a catcher in his playing days, won a Gold Glove in 2006 at the age of 37.

“Kinsler should have gotten a Gold Glove a long time ago,” Ausmus said. “He is impressive to watch play. He still has that passion for the game, which I think is part of the reason he’s still so good.”

Kinsler is beginning his 12th big league season and his fourth in Detroit. And once again, he has come into camp looking closer to 24 than 34.

“I’m ready to go,” he said before the team’s first full-squad workout of the spring. “Just win, that’s always the only goal. You do everything you can to prepare yourself to help your team win games.”

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If Kinsler had his way, spring training would maybe last two weeks, tops.

“I will be ready to play in a week,” he said. “Spring training is boring.”

Mercifully for him, the monotony of camp will be broken by the World Baseball Classic. Kinsler was selected by manager Jim Leyland to play for Team USA.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” he said. “I think it’s going to be intense, or at least I expect it to be. I’ll be able to get out of here. I have a little over a week, or two weeks, to get ready. I am looking forward to it.”

This is the first time Kinsler has been tabbed to play for Team USA since he turned down a chance to play for the Olympic team in 2004. He was playing Triple-A ball in the Rangers organization at that time.

Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler fields a ground ball during infield practice.

“The Rangers were pretty adamant about me not playing,” he said.

There was no hesitation when Leyland asked him to play during the season, and there was no push-back from the Tigers. But it wasn't the chance to play for Leyland, who retired from managing the year he joined the Tigers, that sold him on playing.

“Zero reason,” Kinsler said, when asked if playing for Leyland was a big reason for him wanting to play in the tournament. “But it is a completely added bonus being able to play for Jim. I’ve met him a couple of times before I was traded here. The reputation speaks for itself. What he’s done in this game and to finally get to play for him is exciting.

“I look forward to hearing some of his speeches, for sure.”

Truthfully, it wouldn’t have mattered who the manager is. Kinsler has waited 13 years to cross playing for his country off his bucket list.

“I am happy,” he said. “I get to put on a uniform and represent my country, get some adrenaline flowing. It should be fun.”

Kinsler’s ability to seemingly defy the aging process isn’t an accident. It’s a product of hard work and constantly seeking out new ways to train and push the limits of his conditioning. This offseason, he trained at the Michael Johnson Performance facility in McKinney, Texas — owned by the former world record-holding, and gold-shoed Olympian sprinter.

“It was intense,” he said. “But it was fun. It’s a great place to work out in the offseason. They put me on a program. It was something we talked about before I started training. It is a process.”

Kinsler’s program focused on strength and agility. He said he did more extended running, as opposed to short, explosive bursts — “Which isn’t fun at all,” he said — but he felt it gave him more stamina to do the strength and agility work.

“As you get older, that’s something you really have to stay on top of,” he said. “It’s something I don’t want to lose. It’s important for me to be able to move left and right, to be able to score from first, to be able to steal a base. That’s important and I want to make sure I maintain that.

“The conditioning work helps me do that.”

cmccosky@detroitnews.com

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