The Tigers lost a key cog in their division hopes Monday, when Brandon Inge suffered a fractured bone in his left hand that is expected to sideline him for 4-6 weeks.
Inge was batting in the third inning with two men on base and two outs when Scott Feldman’s 1-1 fastball rode up and in on him. Inge shook off the injury and remained in the game for the fourth inning before Don Kelly replaced him at third base for the top of the fifth.
X-rays taken on Inge revealed what the Tigers called a non-displaced fracture of the fifth metacarpal — essentially a fractured bone near the base of Inge’s pinky finger.
It’s a potentially big blow to a Tigers ballclub trying to stay close in the three-way race atop the American League Central. Inge tripled and scored in the second inning to raise his average to .263 on the season with six home runs and 40 RBIs. His defense, meanwhile, has been a big part of the Tigers infield since he regained his starting job at third near the end of 2008.
Inge was an All-Star last season but struggled over the final three months with meniscus microtears in both of his knees. He underwent double knee surgery last November and made it back in time for Opening Day, but only in the last month or so have his legs finally felt around full strength.
The Tigers don’t have an obvious replacement at the hot corner in the farm system. Most likely, the duties will fall on Kelly and Ryan Raburn, utilitymen who can count third base among the many positions they can handle. Kelly bats left-handed, while Raburn is a right-handed hitter.
The lineup is pretty standard, but the Tigers are obviously hoping the results are different than what they had over the weekend in Cleveland. Manager Jim Leyland, anticipating questions about the home-road splits, ran off a slew of statistics this afternoon. He couldn’t offer a reason for it, not even after checking with coaches to see if there’s any difference in the home and road routines that would suggest the dropoff, but he had numbers. Interestingly, though, the Tigers hit better on the road (.261) than the Major League road average (.256)
- Jackson, CF
- Damon, DH
- Ordonez, RF
- Cabrera, 1B
- Boesch, LF
- Guillen, 2B
- Inge, 3B
- Avila, C
- Santiago, SS
P: Jeremy Bonderman
- Elvis Andrus, SS
- Michael Young, 3B
- Ian Kinsler, 2B
- Vladimir Guerrero, DH
- Josh Hamilton, LF
- Nelson Cruz, RF
- Chris Davis, 1B
- Matt Treanor, C
- Julio Borbon, CF
P: Scott Feldman
The Tigers made their expected rotation tweak a day ahead of time, sending rookie left-hander Andy Oliver to Triple-A Toledo Monday afternoon to make room for right-hander Armando Galarraga.
The move brings back Galarraga ahead of his scheduled start Tuesday against Texas. The Tigers optioned Galarraga to Toledo a week and a half ago with the express intent of getting him some pitching time last week before rejoining the rotation. Galarraga pitched three scoreless innings of relief Friday at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
With Oliver out, Rick Porcello officially remains in the Tigers rotation after returning for what was originally characterized as a spot start Saturday night at Cleveland. The Tigers haven’t said when Porcello would start next, but his rotation spot would fall Thursday afternoon against the Blue Jays at Comerica Park. Porcello pitched his way back with eight innings of one-run ball with six strikeouts against the Indians, by far the best performance by a Tigers pitcher over the weekend.
For Oliver, the move ends a five-start stint in the big leagues that showed his potential as a power left-handed starter, but also showed the learning curve he still has to make in his first full pro season. The 22-year-old gave up two earned runs over six innings in each of his first two starts, but lost them both, before struggling in each of his last three outings. He went 0-4 with a 7.36 ERA, allowing 18 earned runs on 26 hits over 22 innings with 13 walks and 18 strikeouts.