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03/31/08 6:35 PM ET

Kinsler in lineup after all for Rangers

Flu-like symptoms nearly keep second baseman out of action

SEATTLE -- The Rangers thought they were going to start the season without Ian Kinsler. They were wrong.

Kinsler woke up Monday morning with a fever and flu-like symptoms and was not in the original lineup. The Rangers had Ramon Vazquez leading off and playing second base against the Mariners.

But Kinsler went to the indoor batting cage, took some swings and told the Rangers about 75 minutes before the game that he was ready to go.

"I took a nap, woke up and was feeling better," Kinsler said in the Rangers clubhouse. "I've been pounding water. This will probably help me to get out there, run around and work up a sweat."

He also didn't want to miss Opening Day against Mariners left-hander Erik Bedard. Kinsler went into the game with two hits in six career at-bats the Mariners ace.

This is also the third straight year Kinsler has been in the Opening Day lineup as the Rangers second baseman, but his first as their leadoff hitter. He batted ninth in each of the last two season openers. However, manager Ron Washington gave him a chance to be the Rangers leadoff hitter this spring and he responded by hitting .422 with a .486 on-base percentage.

"It's Opening Day," Kinsler said. "It's kind of a big deal, so I want to be out there."

Washington still wants Vazquez in the starting lineup at some point during this six-game road trip to Seattle and Anaheim. Washington said he wants all his players to start at least one game before they return to Texas for the home opener on April 8.

Frank Catalanotto is scheduled to start on Tuesday and Washington said Jason Botts and Adam Melhuse will get a start this week. He's just not sure when.

Vazquez has to wait, but he understands that's life as a utility player, a role he filled for the Rangers in 2007. Vazquez was recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma on May 17 when Hank Blalock went on the disabled list because of a shoulder injury and ended up playing in 104 games with 300 at-bats, hitting .230 with eight home runs and 28 RBIs.

Kinsler played 71 games at third, 19 at shortstop, 13 at second and seven at first. He can also play the outfield if needed and joked before Monday's opener that he could even go behind the plate in an emergency.

"I'll put on the equipment if they need it," he said.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.