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Tigers brace for grueling 10-day, 11-game trip

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler, right, said there's no secret how to handle the team's upcoming 11 games in a 10-day span.

Detroit — The Tigers’ first road trip to open the season in Chicago wasn’t easy. The season opener was postponed because of rain.

Still, it’s been easier than the two road trips since, which have been 10 days each.

And here comes another long one.

The Tigers embark on an 11-day trek to Houston, Chicago and Kansas City over the next two weeks. What’s different about this one is a pair of four-game series to open, finishing up with three games against the Royals.

They finished Sunday night’s contest against the Texas Rangers at Comerica Park and headed out late for an early morning arrival, which they’ll repeat in the final game of the Astros series. The White Sox series begins with a doubleheader — in what could be a critical stretch for the first half of their season.

“It’s our third three-city road trip in a row, so this isn’t anything new,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “The tough part about this one is the late arrivals. We’ll get into Houston really late tonight and late to Chicago on Thursday or Friday morning and we have a doubleheader Friday.

“The hardest part will be the sleep aspect on getaway days.”

With 11 games in 10 days, the compact schedule can wreak havoc on players’ conditioning and ability to recover quickly. For managers, it means getting creative sometimes with the lineups, ensuring that everyone gets adequate rest and not getting worn out in one small stretch of the season.

For some of the players, it’s a quirky schedule, but they figure out ways to adjust without upsetting their normal routine too much.

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“You just prepare; there’s really no secret. Sleep and drink water, the same things we do every day,” second baseman Ian Kinsler said. “You get ready for a game at 7 or whenever it is. I think we have (11 games in 10 days); that’s probably the toughest stretch of our season. We need to recognize that and make sure that play well on this road trip.”

The Tigers have a 9-11 road record and have won just two of their seven series away from Comerica Park. Starting this long road trip against the Astros (29-15), who have the best record in the majors, gives it an added complexity.

The added night games and early morning travel don’t make things any easier, so Kinsler has to make due wherever he can to try to keep things straight.

“It’s tough for me to sleep on planes. Some guys can do it pretty easily. Nick (Castellanos) falls asleep as soon as the wheels get pulled up,” Kinsler joked. “We get in at 4 or 5 and sleep longer, maybe until 1 and go straight to the ballpark to get ready for a game and try to catch up whenever you can — whether it’s that night or the next night and get back to a regular routine.

“It might take an extra day but you have to be able to mentally be ready for all those games; that’s the tough part.”

Many veterans have found their own ways to get as much sleep during a grueling travel schedule. For others, it’s just a grind in going from city to city and hotel to hotel, grabbing short naps in between.

For catcher Alex Avila, it’s not hard any more, as he’s adjusted to the constant moving and can work around the pitfalls.

“I can sleep anywhere, anytime,” he said. “I’ve got no problem with that.”

The unusual schedule deviates from the norm, so players get off their natural rhythm and it’s important to try to get back to any kind of normal routine to ensure that lack of sleep isn’t the reason for poor performances.

“Make sure you get good sleep …You just have to survive,” Avila said. “You treat it like any other night game. We have to travel after so you do everything you normally would do but instead of guys probably playing cards or watch a movie, they might try to get some sleep.”

rod.beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard