Kinsler stays motivated, productive as he ages

Kinsler stays motivated, productive as he ages

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Ian Kinsler will never have a video on Twitter performing feats of strength. For one, he's not a big social media fan. For another, he doesn't train that way.

His viral offseason video was his outdoors excursion with teammate Daniel Norris and ex-teammate Bryan Holaday, camping and hunting in Texas with a former Navy SEAL. But when it comes to baseball training, he has realized that extremes mean little for him.

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He's a Gold Glove-winning second baseman heading toward his 35th birthday in June. He has played all but 17 regular-season games over his three seasons in Detroit, and in 2016 he led all Major League leadoff men in runs scored, and American League leadoff batters in hits.

As Kinsler ages, he has come to realize that his key to offseason training is making sure he shows up during the season.

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"You see guys on Instagram deadlifting 500-whatever pounds and showing off their bench press and doing all this crazy stuff that really doesn't matter," he said. "Because it's about health. It's about staying on the field. It's about feeling good every day. And once I realized that, I was able to direct my workouts, direct my wellness-based program to that, just being healthy, being on the field, maintaining my strength.

"I've tried squatting a house. I've tried doing pull-ups with crazy amounts of weight and doing crazy bench-presses and all that stuff, and I didn't hit more homers. It's really about mentality and just being healthy. That's it."

That doesn't mean Kinsler takes it easy. He trained this offseason at a facility owned by former Olympic sprinter Michael Johnson, working to maintain agility. But when asked if he has a nutritionist, he smiled and said his wife.

"It's still complicated," Kinsler said of his program. "I mean, I have a very strict regimen that I follow in the offseason as far as eating and working out, the specialists that I see and making sure that I'm healthy and making sure my body's working properly. It's complicated, but I've got it down to where I know this is what I need, what times I need it, to make sure that I'm healthy.

"Stay on the field and maintain. Maintain your strength, maintain your energy, and that's it. If you're healthy and you have energy, from my perspective, I'm going to be productive."

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If he can do that for another season, he has a case to be the greatest Tigers second baseman since Lou Whitaker. His 17.8 Wins Above Replacement over three seasons in Detroit top the best three Tigers seasons from Placido Polanco, who put up a 19.1 bWAR in 4 1/2 years wearing the Olde English D, and even Whitaker's best three-year stretch (16.4 bWAR from 1982 to '84).

With the Tigers looking to reduce payroll, and Kinsler up for a $12 million team option or a $5 million buyout next year, his time in Detroit could be nearing an end, productive or not. When Tigers players point to 2017 as potentially the last go-round for this group, Kinsler's situation -- and his meaning to this team -- is a reason why. But he'd rather look at it as the year, not the last year.

"We have a really good team," he said. "We want to do better than we did last year. Everyone's back, minus Cam [Maybin]. We want to be in a different position come the end of the year, and that's all our concentration. It's not really one last go-round. From my perspective, that's not extra motivation. I'm always motivated to win."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.