Tigers' Kinsler showing signs of shaking slump

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
After a productive start, Tigers' Ian Kinsler has been mired in a hitting slump.

Detroit – If it wasn’t so aggravating, Ian Kinsler could probably just write it off as déjà vu.

Every year it seems, there comes a point in the season where his swing plane gets out of whack, he starts dropping his back shoulder and, instead of lining balls into the gaps, he hits pop-ups.

After a productive stint at the World Baseball Classic, Kinsler was hitting .318 with an OPS over 1.0 in the first seven games. He then went through a stretch where he was making a lot of loud outs, hitting the ball hard with no positive result. That morphed into the pop-ups and an early slump.

Over his next 16 games, Kinsler hit .169 with a .270 on-base and .262 slugging percentage.

That is why on Monday he was on the field early taking extra batting practice, working out the flaw in his swing.

“It’s more the bat path than anything else,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “He looked good in early BP, and he took some really good swings in the game (Monday). That last ball, he hit the crap out of it right toward second base.

“But his bat path looked a lot better yesterday.”

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He hit the ball hard three times Monday, with only a single to show for it.

You would think that if a hitter goes through the same issue every season, he would be able to recognize and fix it quicker. Not the case, Ausmus said.

“I know this applies to Kins, and it applies to every hitter at some point – there are points where you are lost, and you’re not really sure what you’re doing wrong,” he said. “And then there are times when you know exactly what you’re doing wrong, and even if you know what you’re doing wrong, it’s not as easy to fix.

“It’s not like flipping a switch. You have to retrain your body back to where it was.”

That’s where Kinsler was on Monday.

“He knew what he was doing wrong,” Ausmus said. “That’s why the extra BP. The repetition hopefully, you repeat it over and over, and after a couple of days, you don’t have to repeat it anymore. It’s back to normal.”

Tuesday was Kinsler’s 16th consecutive start. He’s had one game day off, back on April 13. Taking Kinsler out of the lineup has always been problematic.

“I have been thinking about it,” Ausmus said. “We’re playing Cleveland now – he’s not getting a day here. But I may revisit it on the road trip. Maybe one of the day games in Oakland or something."

Outfield shuffle

Center fielder JaCoby Jones traveled to Indianapolis with the Mud Hens and will play Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to finish his rehab assignment.

Before Jones went back to Toledo on Monday, he said he expected to be with the Tigers on their West Coast trip that starts in Oakland on Friday.

Ausmus didn’t indicate that was definite.

“He’ll be in Indianapolis today, and the next two days,” Ausmus said. “And then we’ll make a determination. Nothing has been decided.”

If Jones did come back, the Tigers would have to send an outfielder back to Toledo. Jim Adduci was called up when Jones was hit in the face with a pitch, and he’s provided a productive left-handed bat.

Right-handed hitting Mikie Mahtook has not played much recently, with just two starts in the last 11 days.

On top of that, there is at least a chance that J.D. Martinez could rejoin the team during the long trip out west.

But Ausmus wasn’t tipping his hand.

“Well I don’t know when J.D. is going to get back,” Ausmus said. “We’ll move forward until we find out we’re getting him back. We’ll move forward with the people we have.”

Martinez had a treatment day on Tuesday, that after he hit a ball off his left foot – not his injured foot – on Sunday. X-rays were negative.

“No, I wouldn’t characterize it as a setback,” Ausmus said. “He’ll be back whenever he gets back. I’ll tell you when someone tells me he’s starting his rehab assignment. So far, that hasn’t happened.”

Catcher platoon?

Ausmus wasn’t committing to one, though Alex Avila is hitting .400 and James McCann is struggling at .155.

“It’ll be day-to-day,” Ausmus said. “Alex is swinging the bat well, which is why he’s in there today, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be there tomorrow (Wednesday).

“It was easy to get him at-bats when Miggy (Cabrera) was injured – but I’d rather have Miggy at first.”

As for a straight platoon at catcher?

“Alex may play more than we initially thought, at least for the time being,” Ausmus said. “But I think long term, Mac’s going to be the guy that catches the most.”

Briefly 

As expected, the Tigers sent John Hicks back to Toledo to make room for Cabrera. Hicks hit .423 with three doubles and a home run filling in at first base.

Twitter: @cmccosky

INDIANS AT TIGERS

First pitch: 7:10 p.m. Wednesday, Comerica Park, Detroit

TV/radio: FSD/97.1

Scouting report:

RHP Carlos Carrasco (2-2, 2.04), Indians: He’s been stingy, to say the least considering his 0.792 WHIP, 34 strikeouts and just seven walks. But the Tigers have hit him over the years. In 20 games against him, their .301 team average and 1.578 WHIP are the highest among teams he’s faced at least five times.

LHP Matthew Boyd (2-1, 3.86), Tigers: He beat the Indians in Cleveland on April 16, allowing a run and seven hits through six innings. His change-up that day was money. He threw 27 of them and got mostly soft contact (.167 batting average against). On the season, opponents are hitting .111 against his change.