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Friday, April 6, 2012
Ian Kinsler sets price right off the bat

By Jean-Jacques Taylor
ESPNDallas.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Someday, they'll learn. At least we should assume they'll figure it out.

You don't throw Ian Kinsler strikes on Opening Day.

Never. Ever.

Adrian Beltre, Ian Kinsler
Ian Kinsler, who doubled and homered Friday against John Danks, has collected seven extra-base hits on Opening Day.
Understand?

Perhaps, the Chicago White Sox forgot Kinsler led off with a homer against the Boston Red Sox on Opening Day last season and failed to put it in the scouting report.

Or maybe John Danks didn't care that Kinsler, his former teammate within the Texas Rangers organization, entered Friday's game with seven hits on Opening Day, including five for extra bases.

Then again, Danks seems to leave quite a few pitches hanging against Kinsler, who's 11-of-28 (.393 average) with four homers, five RBIs and seven runs scored against him since 2007.

Kinsler doubled, homered and scored a pair of runs in the Rangers' 3-2 win over Chicago on Friday afternoon at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

Kinsler, who now has nine hits -- seven for extra bases -- on Opening Day, helped the Rangers start the season the right way.

In the first inning, Kinsler smashed a 1-0 fastball down the left-field line for a double. Elvis Andrus bunted Kinsler to third, and he scored on Josh Hamilton's sacrifice fly to center.

With two out and none on in the third inning, Kinsler launched a hanging curveball into the left-field stands as the Rangers took a 2-0 lead. At that point, he'd seen seven pitches but had totaled six bases.

Impressive.

"He kind of threw me all of his pitches -- curveball, cutter, fastball, changeup -- in that at-bat," Kinsler said. "He rarely throws his curveball, maybe only twice today, but he left it up in a good place and I tried to hit it."

Pay the man already. That's right, open up the vault and stuff as much cash as possible into as many garbage bags as it takes to make Kinsler happy.

We all know the price never goes down.

If only it were that simple. The Rangers met with Kinsler's agent this week and couldn't complete a deal.

This is the rare case in which no one is at fault.

Here's the issue: Players such as Kinsler, the New York Yankees' Robinson Cano and Boston's Dustin Pedroia are putting up offensive numbers traditionally reserved for corner infielders.

As you would expect, they want to be paid as such. Management, of course, would prefer to pay them like middle infielders, who traditionally don't generate much offensive pop or require humongous salaries.

Cano won't be a free agent until after 2013 and Pedroia won't hit free agency until 2015, so there aren't any contracts to slot Kinsler. He has a team option for $10 million next year, but he'd like to be earning a lot more.

Until he gets a new deal, Kinsler must continue to pile up numbers, forcing the Rangers to eventually pay him. Or else they'll lose one of their cornerstone players, who just happens to be one of the two best leadoff men in the American League. Boston's Jacoby Ellsbury is the other.

We saw Kinsler display an array of offensive skills against Chicago. He even tried to bunt for a hit in the fifth with one out and Murphy on first base.

The reasoning: Third baseman Brent Morel was playing about five feet behind the bag and Danks lands on the first-base side of the mound after he throws a pitch.

"It was actually a good bunt and I would've gotten a hit," said Kinsler, "but Danks did a good job getting off the mound and making a good play. You have to give him credit."

Kinsler produced 198 runs last season -- he scored 121 and drove in 77 -- the most on the Rangers. He'd like to go over 200 this season, an attainable goal if he continues to be selective at the plate.

He saw 14 pitches against Chicago, and he ripped a pitch on the outside corner to right field. Alex Rios caught the line drive, but if Kinsler hits the ball where it's pitched instead of trying to yank every offering over the left-field wall, then he might have yet another 30-30 season.

And that means the Rangers must eventually pay him.