<
>

Ian Kinsler swinging big stick at lead off

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- What separates Ian Kinsler from other Rangers lead-off candidates like Elvis Andrus or Julio Borbon is his ability to start any game by depositing the baseball in the bleachers.

He did that in Thursday's split-squad game against the Cleveland Indians, bouncing one off the left-field fence and over for a 1-0 lead two pitches into the game.

That kind of power in the lead-off spot is nice, but Kinsler's main job is to get on base. His last two seasons were polar opposites when it came to home runs and on-base percentage. Kinsler wants to continue his path from last season when he hit a career-low nine home runs but recorded a career-best .382 on-base percentage. In contrast, he hit a career-high 31 homers in 2009, but had a career-worst .327 on-base percentage.

"I’ve changed my fundamentals a little bit. I’ve changed my mechanics a little bit, but just basically what I did last year I’m going to try to continue to do and hopefully the power stroke will come back a little bit," Kinsler said. "I’m not worried about it. The goal is to get on base for the big guys behind me, let Elvis Andrus move me around and let those guys behind me drive me in. That’s the No. 1 goal and if a couple go over the fence I’m not going to be upset about it. But, that's not the main goal."

Kinsler's power stroke appears to be doing just fine. He has three home runs in the four games he's played this spring. He went 2-for-2 with a walk to up his average to .556 and he's scored three times. Kinsler said he enjoys hitting lead-off because he can set an early tone.

"It’s definitely exciting. It’s nice to have those guys behind you," Kinsler said. "You kind of set the tone a little bit. The pitcher doesn’t necessarily know what’s working for him that day at that point, my first at bat of the game, so you get a guy that might not know what’s working for him yet and maybe take advantage of him."