New 2B Ian Kinsler: Angels' aggressive moves are motivation
By GREG BEACHAM
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Ian Kinsler thinks something special is happening with the Los Angeles Angels, and he was determined to be a part of it.
The four-time All-Star second baseman joined the Angels last week from the Detroit Tigers, waiving his limited no-trade clause to make the deal happen.
Along with Justin Upton, Zack Cozart and Shohei Ohtani, Kinsler is part of a remarkable influx of talent over the past five months for the Angels, who have bolstered their lineup around Mike Trout and Albert Pujols.
Kinsler knew the Tigers were rebuilding after a 98-loss season during which they sent Upton to the Angels in another trade. Kinsler could have stuck it out in Detroit while contemplating his future, but he didn't want to wait.
"The place that was most fitting for me was Los Angeles," Kinsler said Monday. "Playing with the Angels, playing with a club that's been so close for the last three years and making moves this winter, trying to push to the next level, that's something that a player like myself is excited about. That's something that motivates a player like me."
Upton re-signed with Los Angeles shortly after the regular season ended, and he sold Kinsler on making the same move when the Angels' need for a second baseman aligned with the 35-year-old Kinsler's desire to play for a probable winner.
"Justin has loved his time there so far, and I put a lot of trust in his opinion," Kinsler said. "Just talking with him about the organization, they do things right. They play the game the right way ... and then obviously the signing of Ohtani just bumped it up even more."
Indeed, the arrival of the two-way Japanese star earlier this month has sparked the sport-wide buzz around the Angels, who are coming off back-to-back losing seasons and haven't won a playoff game since 2009.
After the Angels finished last in the AL with a .397 slugging percentage last season, general manager Billy Eppler knew his club must improve its offense to contend with Texas, Seattle and the World Series champion Houston Astros in the AL West - and owner Arte Moreno remained committed to the high payroll necessary to do it.
Kinsler spoke eagerly of the chance to play alongside Trout in a lineup that has addressed the three positions at which it struggled mightily last season. With Upton in left field, Kinsler at second and Cozart at third , the Angels have former All-Stars and above-average defensive players filling each of last season's biggest holes.
Kinsler was outstanding at the plate while winning a Gold Glove in 2016, and he is eager to team with Gold Glove-winning shortstop Andrelton Simmons in what could be an impressive double-play combo.
Kinsler also believes his offensive numbers are about to bounce back after a dip in 2017 to a .412 slugging percentage and a .725 OPS, the lowest marks of his career. He is a career .273 hitter with 1,826 hits, including 234 homers.
"Last year was tough for everyone in Detroit," Kinsler said. "When you get on a club where there's excitement and you have a bunch of really good baseball players - besides the numbers, just guys that know baseball - it just ups your intensity level. It ups your focus, and I look forward to performing the same way I have my whole career, minus last year."
Kinsler, an Arizona native, also is excited about moving back to the AL West, where he spent his first eight big-league season with the Rangers. Kinsler left the Rangers on fairly acrimonious terms, infamously saying that he hoped "they go 0-162," Kinsler is focused on the future with the Angels.
"Those feelings have gone," Kinsler said. "Time heals. I was young. I was emotional. I think I've learned from that. I obviously didn't like the way that I left, and I'm sure a lot of Rangers fans and players didn't like the way I left, but that's gone."
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Updated December 18, 2017