Ian Kinsler was near the end of a day off in Tampa with his Los Angeles Angels teammates on Monday night when he got the call he had been traded to the Red Sox.
That made for an easy flight to Boston on Tuesday and he was in the lineup at second base and batting sixth against the Philadelphia Phillies.
“They’re the best team in baseball right now. I’m happy to be aboard,” Kinsler said before a 3-1 loss. “You hear it’s a possibility you could be traded, there’s a couple of teams in the mix. Then you find out you’re going to Boston.”
“Extremely excited,” Kinsler said. “I was excited [Monday] night when I got the call. Excited to be here today playing for a club that obviously has huge expectations. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Kinsler, who was given No. 5, struck out in his first at-bat. But he singled to right field off Jake Arrieta in the fourth inning and took third on an errant pickoff throw.
He was stranded there but the aggressive play put a charge into the sellout crowd of 37,816.
Kinsler lined out to right field with a runner on third to end the sixth inning. In the ninth inning, with the Sox trailing by two runs, Kinsler came up with runners on first and second and no out.
The Hollywood ending was set up, but Kinsler struck out on four pitches. Phillies closer Seranthony Dominguez finished the game off from there.
The Sox see Kinsler as a significant defensive upgrade who also can boost the offense.
“Defensively everybody knows what he can do,” said manager Alex Cora, noting that most metrics rank Kinsler as one of the top defenders at his position. “I do feel offensively he’s going to help us out . . . He’s a guy, he makes a lot of contract. From 1-5 we’re going to have a lot of traffic [on the bases] and having him in that spot is going to benefit us.”
Kinsler is with the Red Sox, in essence, because Dustin Pedroia is not. Pedroia has missed all but three games this season recovering from knee surgery and is now home in Arizona getting therapy.
Eduardo Nunez filled in at second base but has been well below average defensively and one of the weakest hitters in what is a strong lineup.
In 2002, Kinsler was a junior college transfer at Arizona State recruited to be the starting shortstop.
But Pedroia, a freshman, took the job and Kinsler transferred to Missouri.
They have been similar players in the majors. Pedroia has 52.1 WAR in 13 seasons and Kinsler 57.4 in his 13 seasons.
Kinsler is 36 and Pedroia turns 35 on Aug. 17.
“It’s full circle,” Kinsler said. “We get along, we talk when we see each other and play against each other. We know each other pretty well. It’s definitely full circle.”
For a team with a poorly regarded farm system, the Red Sox had enough prospects to add three helpful players without cutting into the major league roster.
Since June 28, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski was able to land first baseman Steve Pearce, righthander Nathan Eovaldi, and Kinsler.
“We’re better. We made three good moves,” Cora said. “Not probably the one that gets people very excited outside the clubhouse. But if you think about it, Steve has been amazing for us. He’s a good addition. Nathan, we know what he can do, and we just got a complete player [in Kinsler], too.”