LAKELAND, FLA. — Position players don’t have to report until Monday but new Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler arrived Sunday morning.
That was probably a good thing as everything is new to him this camp, including where to go.
"I was driving around the parking lot for a while, trying to find where the players’ parking is," Kinsler said. "It’s all new and fresh, fun. I’m excited."
It probably didn’t help that there’s a large tent in the parking lot where Cirque Italia is taking place this weekend.
"The Circus Italia? I thought that was the locker room," Kinsler joked.
Kinsler, 31, spent his entire career with the Texas Rangers before being traded for Prince Fielder this past offseason.
Yet he said the challenge is always the same.
"The challenge is to win a World Series with the team that you’re on," Kinsler said. "This team has a great opportunity to do that. So that’s mainly what I’m excited for. Just coming to a new environment, having new teammates, a lot of guys that I really don’t know, I played against but don’t know. It’s just a new experience. To get out of your comfort zone is always good."
Kinsler said he had an inkling he might be traded and tried to prepare himself.
"I have a no-trade, 10 teams that I can list to not be traded to, and I left Detroit off specifically for that reason," Kinsler said. "Detroit was No. 1 on my list as far as American League as a place I felt had a very strong opportunity to win a World Series, because of the past three, four years. When it’s all said and done, I was happy about how it all played out."
Kinsler already knows closer Joe Nathan, his teammate in Texas the last two years, and heard from a couple of Tigers after the trade.
One of those is a fellow Missouri guy, Max Scherzer.
"I saw him at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas," Kinsler said. "I’ve talked to him a handful of times, probably the guy I’ve talked to most on the club. Justin (Verlander) texted me maybe a week or two after it happened just to say welcome."
Aside from his new surroundings and teammates, one thing that is different for Kinsler this season is his weight. He said he lost 10-15 pounds before camp.
"Normally in Texas I usually put weight on because of (losing weight in) the heat," Kinsler said. "I know I don’t have to worry about that in Detroit and I know that the gaps are big in Detroit and I’ll hopefully be doing a lot of running. So I wanted to make sure I was in the best shape I could be in."
Manager Brad Ausmus said Kinsler made that decision on his own.
"We never even talked about it," Ausmus said. "My guess is at the end of last season he self-evaluated and felt like this would help him. He’s been around long enough and knows his body well enough."
Kinsler said he hopes to return to the form that helped him steal 30 bases in 2011.
"I think the ballpark is definitely different," Kinsler said. "The weather’s different, different style of team. I think my responsibilities here are gonna be a little bit different. I felt like I needed to be on top of my game as far as running. I think that’s important for this club and important to win games here."
Some of the younger Tigers like Austin Jackson and Jose Iglesias, both of whom also reported Sunday, might benefit from Kinsler’s expertise on the base paths.
"Torii Hunter has stolen a lot of bases in his career and he’s a very smart baserunner. So to be honest with you, I kind of want to pick his brain a little bit and see if I can learn anything new from him," Kinsler said. "Austin Jackson’s got tremendous speed and I think he’s a guy that can definitely benefit from Torii and hopefully I can help him a little bit, I don’t know. But anything to get the running game going seems like it’s going to help a lot."
Kinsler also expects Comerica Park to play to his strengths.
"I want to get back to more of a line drive type of hitter, a guy that’s on base a lot more that has a lot more opportunities to drive in runs," Kinsler said. "That’s the goal regardless of where I’m hitting and who’s behind me. Spacious. You get a ball past an outfielder in that ballpark, you should be looking for three regardless of what line it’s on."
Kinsler said it should not take long to get used to Iglesias as his shortstop, although he did receive a warning from one of Iglesias’ former teammates.
"I got a text from Dustin Pedroia and he said just make sure your glove’s up because he might knock your front teeth out," Kinsler said. "So hopefully I can keep my teeth and it’ll be a couple days before I get used to it. We’ve all done this for a while and at a high level so just as far as turning a double play, it shouldn’t be that difficult but you like to know where a guy likes it and he’s obviously going to want to know where I like it and just the ideal situation for turning a double play or plays up the middle, how much range he has and how early I need to go behind him or cut in front of him.
"Situations like that, they get hashed out during spring training and that’s why we’re here."