Kinsler's return to Tigers lineup imminent

Veteran could start Thursday against Angels

Kinsler's return to Tigers lineup imminent

PHOENIX -- It's been a week since Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler was pulled in the seventh inning of a loss to the Indians at Comerica Park with a left hamstring strain, and the injury has continued to linger.

But manager Brad Ausmus said Wednesday that Kinsler was available for the team's 7-1 loss to the D-backs, although he did not play. If all is well, Kinsler could be back in the starting lineup on Thursday night against the Angels in Anaheim.

"He's available today, he feels better today," Ausmus said. "He'll be available to pinch-hit, if not go out in the field for a couple of innings. My guess is, he'll probably be ready to go [Thursday]."

But Ausmus has been optimistic about Kinsler being able to play every day.

Kinsler came out of the May 3 game, and Ausmus figured him to be day to day, but that's not the way the nagging injury has worked out.

Kinsler's two-run single

In his first 26 games, Kinsler had a slash line of .206/.330/.351 with three homers, three doubles, a triple and eight RBIs. Thus far, it's a huge drop off from last season's .288/348/.484 with 28 homers, 29 doubles and 83 RBIs.

Perhaps it might have been more efficient to place the 34-year-old Kinsler on the 10-day disabled list with the way the injury has played out.

"Well, initially we thought it was going to be just three or four days," Ausmus said. "And when we got to five days, which was [Tuesday], we felt like we could DL him. But we could only backdate him three days. That meant he would have had to sit out another week.

"We just felt like he was going to be ready much sooner than that. Matter of fact, my guess is that he would have been completely ready [Thursday], and partially available today, so it's probably good we didn't put him on the 10-day DL."

Kinsler played second base for champion Team USA in this year's World Baseball Classic, starting seven of the eight games and batting .267 (8-for-30) with a homer and three RBIs.

The homer was a two-run shot that opened the scoring for the U.S., during the third inning of its 8-0 victory over Puerto Rico in the championship game at Dodger Stadium on March 22.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.