ARLINGTON -- Jim Leyland doesn't want to make too much of a mid-May series between a couple of division-leading teams, but what the Rangers have accomplished over the past few years has earned them a new-found respect from the veteran major league manager.
"I look at this as [the Rangers] have a real, real, really good team and a real tough opponent," Leyland said before opening up a four-game series at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Thursday night. "I respect everybody we play, but you have to respect this team after what they've done the last few years and what they've done this year where they don't have Josh [Hamilton] back and they've made some moves and they just keep marching on.
"That said, we think we have a pretty good team, too."
Leyland was especially complimentary of Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler and third baseman Adrian Beltre.
"This is my personal opinion, but I think Kinsler is one of the best players in the American League," Leyland said. "He's a hell of a player. I just have the utmost respect for him.
"He does everything. He plays second good, he's got power, he's got speed. He plays hard every time I've ever seen him. I think he's really a top-notch player. I think he's quietly become one of the better players in the league."
Beltre, Leyland noted, is known throughout the league for his ability both offensively and defensively.
"The third baseman is without question one of the best players in the American League," Leyland said. "I won't say who it was, but I had one of my coaches tell me the other day that he is one of the five best players in the American League.
"He's just a terrific player. He's a terrific defender and he's a terrific hitter. We talk about Beltre all the time. Fortunately for us, we've got a pretty good player playing third base, too."
Leyland 'thrilled' to have Valverde as his closer
ARLINGTON -- Every day there's another question about closer Jose Valverde. Every day, manager Jim Leyland scratches his head and wonders why.
Over seven innings in seven games this season, Valverde has notched three saves, allowed one hit, one run, notched seven strikeouts an issued three free passes.
"I don't know why I keep getting questions about Valverde," Leyland said. "I'm thrilled to have him back."
For Leyland, Valverde is a known commodity. He knows what to expect.
"I know two things about Valverde," Leyland said. "He's not afraid and he's done it before."
Valverde knows what it takes psychologically to handle the pressure of closing games.
"You don't find many good closers who can't turn the page," the manager pointed out. "If they can't, they're not good closers anymore."
Tigers arrive in Texas just ahead of storms
ARLINGTON -- The Tigers slipped into Texas just before the brunt of a major spring storm battered the Dallas-Fort Worth area Wednesday night, spawning multiple tornadoes and leaving at least six known dead in Granbury, a community about 40 miles south of Fort Worth.
The Rangers, flying home from Oakland, weren't quite so lucky.
The Rangers' plane had just passed Albuquerque, N.M., when it was told to reverse directions. The team plane landed at Albuquerque and spent about 2 1/2 hours on the ground there, waiting out the storms raging in Texas.
The Tigers, aboard their charter flight, were told to batten the hatches as they began their approach to DFW Airport around 7 p.m. ET.
"It was a little bumpy coming in, but we were lucky," said manager Jim Leyland. "It didn't get as bad as we thought it might. You could see how bad it was, how dark it was in places.
"It was a little hairy, but not as bad for us as for those who really got hit."
The Rangers' plane didn't land at Dallas Love Field at 12:30 a.m.
• The Tigers' pitching staff is counting by tens again. Wednesday's combined 10 strikeouts in Detroit's 7-5 loss to Houston marked the club's 22nd game with 10 or more strikeouts this season, the most in the Majors and most by a Tigers' team through the first 38 games of a season.
• Tigers' starting pitchers began Thursday night's game leading the league with a 3.32 ERA, 252 strikeouts and 26 quality starts and were tied for the lead with 19 wins.
• The No. 9 spot in the Tigers' batting order is producing at a .306 clip, with eight doubles, four triples, four homers and 22 RBIs.
Jim Reeves is a contributor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.