LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) The Detroit Tigers think Ian Kinsler can hit in several different spots in the lineup. He showed why on Saturday.
Kinsler hit his first two home runs with his new team, leading the Tigers to a 14-3 exhibition win over the Houston Astros. The second baseman went 3 for 3 with four RBIs.
”Ideally he’s at the top of the lineup somewhere, but can he slide into the five hole for a couple of weeks when he’s hot?” asked first-year manager Brad Ausmus, who is keeping his options open on the batting order. ”He does so many things well on the bases you want him in front of the big hitters, but he’s also got the ability, like today, to drive runs in. So he can be used in a lot of places.”
The Tigers traded Prince Fielder to Texas for Kinsler, but he doesn’t expect to replace Fielder’s home runs all by himself.
”They (home runs) look cool, but the goal in this clubhouse is to win a World Series, and the way you win a World Series is to score more runs than anybody else,” Kinsler said.
Kinsler spent his first eight seasons with the Rangers, batting .273 with 156 homers and 539 RBIs. He had 31 homers and 31 steals in 2009, and then put up another 30-30 season in 2011, when he had a career-high 32 homers and 30 steals. He has swiped at least 11 bags each year in the majors.
”Today I hit fifth. I’ve done that a couple times this spring,” Kinsler said. ”He’s also led me off. So we’ll see opening day.”
Kinsler came to camp about 12 pounds lighter than his listed playing weight of 200, but he said that won’t affect his power. He’s not going to swing for the fences anyway.
”If it happens, it happens,” he said. ”My concern is to be able to add something, and to do whatever it takes to help the team win. I’m not really concerned with hitting home runs.”
Max Scherzer pitched 4 2-3 innings for Detroit, giving up three runs and five hits, including Robbie Grossman’s first spring homer.
”I wasn’t as sharp today,” the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner said. ”This is an outing I get to learn a lot from. It’s good to get battle-tested in the spring, have starts like this where they’re hitting you around. It forces you to keep on the attack.”
Houston starter Lucas Harrell gave up 12 hits and nine earned runs in 1 2-3 innings. The Tigers had eight hits during their six-run first inning.
”Sometimes things go your way when you’re getting ground balls and sometimes they don’t,” Harrell said. ”It was one of those things today where even though I was making pitches, sometimes you’ve got to tip your cap (because) they made better hits.”
Tyler Collins, who had three of Detroit’s 18 hits, tripled in the second inning and homered in the seventh.
ASTROS: Harrell, who won 11 games in 2012, is a candidate for Houston’s starting rotation, said manager Bo Porter.
TIGERS: ”The biggest thing I’m happy about is I didn’t walk anybody,” said Scherzer, who has walked only one batter in four spring starts. ”That’s a great sign I took from this outing.”
ASTROS: First-round draft choice Mark Appel probably will be ready to pitch by next weekend, according to general manager Jeff Luhnow.
Veteran reliever Jesse Crain, recovering from a strained calf, will need a rehab assignment and will be ”hopefully in Houston by the end of April,” Luhnow said.
TIGERS: The possibility of opening the season without shortstop Jose Iglesias is growing. Shin splints have limited Iglesias to one spring game. ”In short order, we’ll be past that tipping point and we would have to open the season without Jose,” Ausmus said.
Designated hitter Victor Martinez started at catcher and led off because the Tigers wanted to get him two at-bats. Martinez got his two at-bats in the first inning, but stayed in the game to catch three innings and wound up going 1 for 3 with a run scored.