Detroit – Nick Castellanos immediately wanted to hear what Ian Kinsler had said about it.
Kinsler, the former Tigers second baseman back in Detroit for the first time since being traded to the Angels, was told that Castellanos and Shane Greene have stepped up and tried to fill the leadership void he had left. He was asked if that surprised him.
“No, not at all,” Kinsler said. “I think they are both super competitive. They want to win everything. I think both have done enough in the game up this point to step into that role. With Miggy (Cabrera) and Victor (Martinez) over there, you want to look to those guys because they have tremendous experience.
“But Shane and Nick kind of move around the locker room a lot better. They both want to move around the locker room. They are two good guys to follow.”
Castellanos seemed relieved to hear that.
“I probably didn’t pick his brain as much as I should have,” Castellanos said. “But he helped me so much along the way. He told me everything I needed to hear. But I was too young to really understand what he was trying to say.
“You know how it’s like you don’t really become your parents’ child until you are grown and out of the house? It’s the same deal. A lot of things he was trying to get me to do at 21, 22 years old, I’m able to understand now.”
The younger Castellanos would bristle when he’d get a big hit and knock in a run, and Kinsler would be on him about not reading the throw from the outfield and getting himself to second base.
“He wouldn’t really let me breathe, so to speak,” Castellanos said. “But it came from a good place. It was just hard to understand when you are young.”
Castellanos is trying to fill Kinsler’s role in the clubhouse, but he’s doing it a different way.
“I say that I am not as intense a person as Ian is,” he said. “I’ll do it more like, I’ll put my arm around a guy’s shoulders and ask a question, listen to what they have to say and let them come to their own conclusion.”
Make no mistake about it, though, Kinsler had a profound impact on the Tigers clubhouse the last four seasons.
“Just having his name in the lineup every day,” Castellanos said. “That’s Ian Kinsler. The way he thinks about baseball. The way he plays on both sides of the ball. The way he wants to win. There are a lot of positives when that guy is on your team.”
Kinsler – though he said he enjoyed driving to Comerica Park from Birmingham again, just like old times – has his own issues to deal with right now. He’s hitting .149 in the month of May, with a .221 on-base percentage and slugging .245.
He entered play Monday on a 1-for-27 drought.
“The process is always challenging unless you are getting results,” he said. “I’m not getting results. But you just continue to try to help the team every day. That’s really the mindset. Obviously, it’s a results-oriented game and if you are not getting those, you don’t feel like you are doing anything.
“You can stick to the process and try to stay the course. But at the end of the day, you want to see results. You want to help the team.”
The Angels lost two close games in New York, 2-1 and 3-1 and Kinsler, who went hitless, put those on himself.
“When you are part of a losing game, you get super frustrated, especially after close games,” he said. “We lost those two games and I did nothing offensively, so I blame myself.”
His offensive struggles aside, though, Kinsler is in a good spot. He’s on a veteran-laden team with playoff aspirations. Before he was traded, Kinsler made it known that he would’ve been OK being a mentor in the first year of the Tigers’ rebuilding process.
But, approaching his 36th birthday, making one final run at a championship better suits him.
“As a player, as a competitor, you always want to be on a team that has a chance to win, where the expectations are to win,” he said. “That’s where you want to be. But I’m not going to take back what I said. If it was in the cards (to go back to the Tigers), that’s what I’d have to deal with.
“But right now, I am on a team trying to get to the playoffs.”