With about a week to go before reporting to camp, Kinsler is rolling through possible lineups and imagining what it'll be like to be on base in a tight game when Miguel Cabrera goes deep, or to play defense behind Cy Young winners Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander. But the best part? "In Texas, it was almost like my team," he says. "I go to Detroit, and it's Miggy's team, it's Verlander's team. I'm just a ballplayer. I can just go play and have fun."
He is most excited to work with Torii Hunter, the 38-year-old outfielder who defies age, who has managed to produce well past the time when legs slow and backs ache. "I can't wait to pick that dude's brain," Kinsler says. "His style is very similar to mine: very aggressive, takes a lot of chances -- educated, calculated chances." Kinsler wants to get back to that style.
The Tigers hope he can be a final piece to the puzzle, helping an elite team win the World Series title that has eluded it. Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski describes Kinsler as "a high-quality player" and an "everyday second baseman" who offers "good athleticism."
Kinsler also offers salary relief. Dealing Fielder saves the Tigers $76 million over the next seven years. That money certainly could help Detroit re-sign Scherzer, who becomes a free agent at season's end. Also important: Fielder's departure allows Cabrera to move from third base -- where the two-time AL MVP was one of the game's worst defenders -- to first.
Going from the hitters' haven of the Rangers' park to a pitchers' park in Comerica, Kinsler knows he will have to change his game as well. "I don't want to go 30/30," he says. "That's not ideal in that ballpark. I want to be more of a gap-to-gap hitter. I'd rather have 10 triples, 40 doubles and 30 bags and score over 100 runs. If I can get on base and steal and put myself in scoring position for great hitters behind me, that's the goal."
KINSLER IS ITCHING to get started. "I haven't been this excited about baseball in years," he says. "I've got a stomach-butterfly feeling." He has dropped nearly 15 pounds this offseason in hopes of getting back to the quickness and explosiveness that made him such a dynamic player just three seasons ago. "I want to prove to myself that these last two years are not the direction I'm going. Plus, I want to prove to everybody who thinks it is that I'm still an elite ballplayer."
To prepare, on this day he's headed to a Fort Worth suburb to work out with Rangers strength coach Jose Vazquez (still his offseason trainer), Andrus and new Rangers outfielder Michael Choice. The trio does some running, lifting and medicine ball work. Andrus has to leave early, but before he goes, he wraps Kinsler in a hug.
"When are you leaving?"
"All right. Good luck. I'll see you later."
In his Jeep driving home, Kinsler is still thinking about the trade. He recently heard something Dombrowski told reporters about him: "He's an all-around player. He's not known for his outstanding range, but we think he's a real steady second baseman."
Instead of focusing on the praise -- high-quality player and good athlete -- Kinsler sees another doubter, another slight to his ability. "I want to prove Dombrowski wrong," he says. "I want to surprise you. I'm going to impress you with my range."
He presses the accelerator. Another season, another chance.