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Kinsler set for season debut Friday

Kinsler set for season debut Friday

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ARLINGTON -- Second baseman Ian Kinsler will return to the Rangers' lineup for the first time this season Friday in Seattle.

Kinsler was back in the Rangers' clubhouse Thursday morning and got a big hug from third baseman Michael Young. Kinsler wanted to play Thursday, but manager Ron Washington fought him off and said he was sticking to the plan of waiting until Friday.

"I'm definitely excited to get back," Kinsler said. "It's been a little while. I'm ready to play. He wanted me to relax today because I've been going at it pretty hard. I tried to fight him a little bit, but he's pretty stubborn. I'll get in there in Seattle."

"We wanted to give him a day and let him start fresh tomorrow," Washington said.

Kinsler, who has missed the first 22 games and half of Spring Training with a high right ankle sprain, said he expects to play through some pain the rest of the season. He will not wear a brace or any protective wear.

"The pain is there but definitely is manageable," Kinsler said. "It's something I'll have to play through."

Kinsler will bat fifth Friday, where he'll slide into the lineup behind Vladimir Guerrero and eventually in front of Nelson Cruz, who is currently on the 15-day disabled list.

"Cruz will give him more fastballs," Washington said. "We want [Kinsler] to be protected."

Kinsler is a spark plug for the Rangers' offense. He went 30-30 last season with 31 home runs and 31 stolen bases. He is the Rangers' most likely player in the lineup to beat an opponent in different ways.

"[We] get his presence back," Washington said. "His game back. His game is multifaceted. He can make a difference in that lineup and he makes a difference at second base."

Kinsler had a stolen base to go with two hits and two RBIs in Wednesday's final rehab game for Double-A Frisco. He said the toughest part is moving from a still position because the high ankle sprain has hindered him moving forward and backward.

"To do what I did last night definitely gave me some confidence," Kinsler said of a stealing a base.

To get Kinsler back gives the Rangers' offense more reason to believe.

"It's another impact player in our lineup," Young said. "It adds another guy who can make things happen."

Todd Wills is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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