SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — Ian Kinsler took a nomadic journey to being the starting second baseman for the Texas Rangers.
There were three different college teams in three seasons. Then after Kinsler was drafted in the 17th round, he made a quick rise through the Texas minor league system, playing for four teams at three levels over three summers.
Now, after only 250 major league games in two seasons with the Rangers, Kinsler is seemingly set to stay in one place for a while. The 25-year-old second baseman got a new five-year contract at the beginning of spring training that includes a team option for 2013.
"It was a crazy trip, being at three different schools, getting drafted late and all that stuff and being able to get to the big leagues in 2½ years," Kinsler said. "Looking back on it now, after I signed the deal after two years in the big leagues, it's been an unbelievable trip."
The Rangers obviously want Kinsler to be part of their future.
Only one other Texas player is signed as long: perennial All-Star shortstop Michael Young, through 2013 after signing his contract extension last spring.
"Kins is kind of at a point now where he's kind of ready to be a star in the league," Young said. "He has a lot of at-bats under him now. He kind of knows what it takes."
Kinsler and Young are constantly together, whether doing drills on the field or in the clubhouse where their lockers are side by side. Plus, they are likely going to hit 1-2 in the Rangers batting order.
Much of the reason Kinsler wanted to be with the Rangers for a long time was because Young was already committed to the team.
"That had a lot to do with my thought process," Kinsler said. "I love where this organization is going and what they've done. There's just a lot of positive things going around, and I want to be a part of that."
In his first two seasons, Kinsler hit .274 with 34 home runs, 116 RBIs and 34 stolen bases. While batting in six different spots in the order last year, Kinsler had only the third 20-homer season by a second baseman in team history.
While initially reluctant, Rangers manager Ron Washington has now committed to Kinsler being the team's leadoff hitter this season.
"I didn't think he was the prototype leadoff hitter, but the guy proved me wrong," Washington said. "He'll take a walk or get one run for us with one swing of the bat. He can bunt, he can run and he can hit the ball to the other side."
Kinsler hit first or second most of the second half last season, especially after leadoff hitter Kenny Lofton got traded. At the beginning of the spring, Kinsler said he wanted to be at the top of the order, then hit .424 in 59 at-bats in 22 spring training games.
His primary goal this season is to avoid injury.
After Texas traded Alfonso Soriano and Kinsler won the starting job as a rookie in 2006, Kinsler was hitting .476 (10-for-21) when he dislocated his left thumb in his ninth game and missed six weeks. He missed most of July last season with a stress fracture in his right foot.
"I just want to play a whole season, stay healthy and see how many at-bats I can get, and see what I can do with those at-bats," Kinsler said. "I still want to better myself. I have only played two years. I still have a lot to prove in this game."
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.