NOAH TRISTER, AP Baseball Writer
Ian Kinsler says joining the Detroit Tigers has been a bit of a relief so far.
His team is in first place and he’s among the league leaders in hitting — and that’s about all he has to worry about when he shows up at the ballpark each day.
“I’m here to play baseball. I’m here to win, I’m here to help the team any way I can and perform,” Kinsler said. “That’s really it.”
“I’m not worried about taking care of any young kids, or making sure dress code is met, or anything like that. Just here to play ball and help the team,” he said.
Kinsler was sent to Detroit in the offseason blockbuster trade that moved Prince Fielder to Texas. And although Detroit made the deal with financial flexibility in mind, it also was getting an accomplished player.
Kinsler has certainly lived up to his end of the bargain to this point. The 31-year-old second baseman was hitting .330 entering Tuesday night’s game at Oakland.
Although Detroit has slumped recently, the Tigers still lead the AL Central by a comfortable margin, and it looks like Kinsler has a shot to hit over .300 for only the second time in his career. He’s been more than just a steady replacement at second base for Omar Infante, who left via free agency.
Kinsler has been a catalyst for the Detroit offense, fitting in well on and off the field.
“He’s actually funnier than I thought he was. He always looks very serious,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “Managing him, he’s outstanding — couldn’t ask for more.”
After being traded by the Rangers, Kinsler was quoted in an ESPN The Magazine story as saying he hoped Texas would go 0-162 this season. He later said he was joking, and he bristled a bit when asked about that comment last week, when the Rangers arrived in Detroit for a four-game series.
Kinsler was asked if any of the Rangers had given him any good-natured grief about his remarks.
“They thought it was funny, like everyone probably should,” Kinsler said. “The way that it was taken was serious, but it’s supposed to be funny. They saw it as funny, I saw it as funny.”
Kinsler says he still has some contact with former teammates, but it’s clear that he’s found a comfort zone in Detroit. He played eight seasons in Texas, and the move to the Tigers enabled him to start fresh with a team full of veterans.
Those off-the-field responsibilities Kinsler has little use for? They aren’t much of an issue now.
“I want to play baseball. I want to be on the field and compete, and talk about the game, help my teammates in that way,” Kinsler said. “I love to talk about baseball and what I see on the field and things that you can take advantage of. As far as the other stuff, in my opinion, it’s for the birds, and not something I enjoy doing.”
Texas took three of four from the Tigers in that series in Detroit, but Kinsler doubled three times in his team’s lone victory, and he went 8 for 17 in the series. His presence in the lineup is part of the reason Ausmus was able to drop Austin Jackson from the leadoff spot.
It’s only been about two months, but Kinsler is already quieting some of the concerns about the direction his career was heading in. Instead, he’s made that big trade look like an unqualified success so far for the Tigers.
“This is the second half of my career, I’m a Detroit Tiger now, and I’m happy with where I’m at,” Kinsler said. “I want to impress the people that are here.”
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