The Tigers need an extra arm in the bullpen at the moment more than they need a third baseman to replace injured Brandon Inge. So Detroit placed Inge on the 15-day disabled list and recalled right-hander Casey Fien from Triple-A Toledo Tuesday afternoon to provide an extra arm while it ponders what to do at third base.
Inge is expected to be out 4-6 weeks after fracturing a bone in his left hand Monday night against the Rangers.
After Monday’s 14-inning loss to Texas, a fourth-inning exit from Andy Oliver Sunday afternoon and a day-night doubleheader that included another extra-inning game Saturday, Detroit’s bullpen has pitched 20.2 innings over five games in four days since the All-Star break. Five relievers pitched Monday night, including closer Jose Valverde for the second consecutive day.
That left the Tigers looking for an extra arm to handle work Tuesday night if Armando Galarraga can’t work deep into the game. Enter Fien, who was up with the Tigers for two days a few weeks ago before Ryan Perry returned. Fien pitched two scoreless innings June 30 at Minnesota.
Fien’s arrival means third base will fall to the Detroit’s utilitymen for at least Tuesday. With the Rangers starting right-hander Tommy Hunter Tuesday night, Don Kelly appears likely to get the start at third base for the second time in three days. Kelly gave Inge a day off Sunday at Cleveland and replaced him at third base in the fifth inning Monday.
Once the Tigers get their bullpen back in order, they have a few options to replace Inge positionally. Jeff Larish has been the primary third baseman at Triple-A Toledo, and is batting .298 with 12 doubles, 10 home runs and 36 RBIs since June 1, but the Tigers didn’t consider Larish an everyday third baseman during his stints in Detroit. He was playing there to enhance his versatility.
Scott Sizemore, the Tigers’ Opening Day second baseman, has hit well since coming back from injuries and could feasibly return to the big leagues if the Tigers move Carlos Guillen to third. However, Sizemore just recently came off the DL with a hip injury, and Guillen hasn’t played third base since spending half the ’08 season there.
Guillen likely won’t have a problem moving again. How he does there remains to be seen. His middle infield instincts have allowed him to handle second base a little better than expected.
Detroit’s best defensive option could be to go with Kelly, an infielder by trade coming up through the Tigers farm system before adding outfield to his resume in recent years in the Pirates and Diamondbacks organizations. He’s batting .219 (25-for-114) with Detroit this year with three doubles, a home run and eight RBIs. Fellow Tigers utilityman Ryan Raburn also has experience at third base.