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.