MIN@DET: Ausmus on scoring early and pitching well

DETROIT -- The total elapsed flight time of the Tigers' hop, skip and jump over Lake Erie back home from Cleveland on Wednesday? Roughly 20 minutes.

Detroit manager Brad Ausmus said he is enjoying the lighter travel demands that playing in the Midwest afford a team. It's a breeze compared to his time as a player in Los Angeles.

"It's also much easier now because you have the division-strong schedule," Ausmus said Thursday. "You end up playing your division more often, and that's less travel because your division is usually closer to you."

Mechanical problems delayed the team's flight from Boston to Cleveland, forcing it to arrive mere hours before the series against the Indians began. Even with the travel woes on the road trip, Ausmus isn't complaining.

"I think the teams in the central part of the country definitely have an advantage travel-wise," he said.

Kinsler gets first look at Rangers as ex-teammates

DET@CLE: Kinsler scores on error to take late lead

DETROIT -- Ian Kinsler knows that, for the remainder of his Major League career, he will be compared to Prince Fielder. Kinsler and Fielder were swapped by Texas and Detroit this offseason in a trade that has invoked much public scrutiny.

When Kinsler gets his first glance at his ex-teammates Thursday as the Tigers and Rangers begin their four-game set at Comerica Park, Fielder will be conspicuously absent. He remained in Texas when the Rangers left for Detroit because of a herniated neck disc. It's not out of the question that Fielder could re-join the team later in the series.

Kinsler said he's looking forward to playing against his old team, and there's been some friendly trash talk leading up to the series. Sitting in his new home, the third-base dugout at Comerica Park, Kinsler reflected Thursday on the deal that sent him north.

"Initially, I was mostly worried about my family," Kinsler said. His wife and kids still reside in the Dallas area. "After that, my head went to the baseball side of it."

Kinsler seems to have adapted nicely to the Detroit clubhouse, where in a room full of veteran presences, he doesn't necessarily have to be a vocal leader like he was in Texas. Admittedly, that was a role that was forced upon him with the Rangers.

"You have to teach players how to prepare the right way, and that in turn is going to help you win," he said. "But I'm not good at that. I'm not good at following a guy around and telling them what time to get to the field, how to prepare for the game."

Kinsler also took the opportunity to clarify his comments in an ESPN The Magazine story that ran in early March. In it, he said he hopes the Rangers "go 0-162."

"They laughed," Kinsler said of his ex-teammate's reaction to his remark. "They thought it was funny, like everyone probably should. The way it was taken was serious. But it's funny. It's supposed to be funny. They saw it as funny."

Kinsler said that there were mornings during the offseason that he had to wake up and remind himself that he's now on the Tigers. Detroit currently holds baseball's second-best record at 27-15, and Kinsler has noticed some similarities between these Tigers and the 2011 Rangers squad that lost the World Series in seven games to St. Louis.

"There's a lot of players on this team who have a lot of experience. It's just a veteran group," he said. "This team is as good as any."

Bullpen not at full strength

DET@CLE: Smyly fans six over five strong innings

DETROIT -- Both Detroit's left-handed relievers pitched in Wednesday's 13-inning wild marathon in Cleveland. As a result, manager Brad Ausmus said "there's a possibility" lefty starter Drew Smyly could make an appearance in relief Thursday.

Certainly, Ausmus would like to avoid using Smyly as he's scheduled to start Monday in Oakland at the earliest. But with Ian Krol having pitched two innings of one-hit ball Wednesday and Phil Coke throwing 1 2/3 innings, it stands to reason that Smyly could be called upon.

"It's been in better shape," Ausmus said of the bullpen before Thursday's game.

Coke picked up the loss in Wednesday's game, even though it was Al Alburquerque whose walk-off balk ended the game. Ausmus said Coke's command was off Wednesday, "but I think overall, three out of the last four outings have been much better than what we saw in April."

Confidence has played a large role in Coke's increased comfort level on the mound, according to Ausmus. The situations Coke has been used in recently have been tighter with less margin for error -- another vote of confidence for Coke.

"He's had some success which is self-breeding," Ausmus said. "Success breeds success. We hope to keep him on that track."

Surgery not being discussed for Putkonen

CWS@DET: Putkonen retires Ramirez to seal the win

DETROIT -- Detroit long reliever Luke Putkonen visited noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday for an exam of his right elbow. Inflammation in the elbow has forced him to miss about a month.

Andrews' evaluation was essentially confirmation of the one the Tigers' medical staff had reached, according to manager Brad Ausmus. Ausmus said surgery is not being discussed as a possibility right now.

"Andrews looked at him and looked at the MRI and kind of saw the same diagnosis that was made before," Ausmus said. "So we're just going to continue treatment and rehab."

Putkonen's rehabilitation met a roadblock last week when he moved from Class A West Michigan to Triple-A Toledo as he gave up five runs in four innings with the Mud Hens.

Quick hits

• Detroit outfielder Andy Dirks has continued to participate in light baseball activities, according to Ausmus. He is rehabbing a back injury that has kept him out the entire season. The injury originally called for about a three-month recovery time and Dirks is closing in on that checkpoint.

• Ausmus called the play Nick Castellanos made on a bunt by Michael Bourn likely the "best overall play" the third baseman has made in his career. Castellanos threw out Cleveland's speedy center fielder in the bottom of the 13th inning Wednesday, though the Tigers eventually lost later in the frame on a walk-off balk.