October 21st, 2010

Tigers confirm Ernie Young hire at West Michigan

The Tigers made official Thursday their hire for manager at Class A West Michigan. It’ll be ex-Tiger (albeit not a Tiger long) Ernie Young, a longtime former Minor Leaguer who’s building a wealth of experience managing in the farm system.

Joining Young at West Michigan is another ex-Tiger, Ben Ogilvie, as first reported by TigTown.com.

The Young move fills the opening created when Joe DePastino shifted into a teaching role as the organization’s roving catching instructor.

Young managed in the White Sox organization the last two years at Class A Kannapolis, and just finished a stint last week managing Team USA in the Pan Am Games qualifying tournament. His hitting coach for Team USA: Leon “Bull” Durham, his hitting coach as a player at Triple-A Toledo in 2003 and still the Mud Hens hitting coach.

Young went 2-for-11 in his brief stint as a Tiger that year, one of 17 seasons he spent in pro ball. He made it to the big leagues one more time, with the Indians in 2004, before retiring after the 2007 season.

DePastino’s move is not being taken necessarily as a demotion. Speculation pointed towards a change back in August when another former Tiger, Kevin Hooper, told the Wichita Eagle he had been offered the West Michigan job. At that point, the Whitecaps were rallying towards a wild card spot in the Midwest League playoffs, making them the only Tigers affiliate to reach the postseason.

“My new job is one I’ve always wanted,” DePastino told the Grand Rapids Press. “I’ve been a catcher my whole life, and while I love managing, being with the catchers full time is a good gig.”

Andrew Graham was the roving catching instructor this season, but he’s expected to move into a full-time coaching role, possibly a managerial post.

Follow-up from Inge signing

Not a whole lot of indifference towards Brandon Inge’s 2-year, $11.5 million (not $11 million, since he’ll get at least the $500,000 buyout for 2013 even if the Tigers don’t pick up his option) contract. Fans either like it, really like it or really hate it, much like everything else with Inge over the last three or four years.

I’m probably not going to change any minds, but I’ll just offer up some points …

  1. Re-signing Inge isn’t the centerpiece of the offseason. It’s a first piece. You don’t re-sign Inge to bat fifth behind Cabrera; you sign him to bat lower in the order and maintain a high level of defense at third base.
  2. By having keeping Inge’s range and arm at third base, the Tigers have the flexibility to get away with Jhonny Peralta at shortstop. They’re separate negotiations, and nothing is close with Peralta right now, but it would’ve been tough to look at Peralta as a shortstop without Inge to his right. I’m not sure it’s an automatic right now that Peralta gets re-signed, or that his option is picked up, but that’s the Tigers’ preference.
  3. For all the speculation about the Tigers making a run at Adrian Beltre, it wasn’t going to happen. He didn’t give Detroit the time of day when he was a free agent after the 2004 season (he supposedly wanted to play on the West Coast), and he wasn’t expected to this time, either.
  4. There was a decent chance of Inge getting more money, at least a little more, had he hit the open market. There are enough managers and front-office people who value his defense that some team would’ve stepped forward. Inge accepts the idea that he probably left some money out there, but the comfort level of sticking around and the peace of mind this offseason meant more.
  5. One side benefit of re-signing Inge is the continuity in the Tigers clubhouse, where Inge has emerged as a team leader over the last year or two. He isn’t an in-your-face guy, but he gets a lot of respect.

Tigers re-sign Inge to two-year deal

The Tigers took care of their first piece of offseason business Thursday by signing third baseman Brandon Inge to a two-year contract with a club option with 2013, keeping the longest-tenured current Tiger in the Old English D. Financial terms were not disclosed.

The signing completes negotiations that began before the season even ended, a relative rarity for the Tigers. But with the potential additions the Tigers stand to make this winter, they wanted to quickly move on keeping their defensive stalwart at the hot corner before he could hit the open market.

The 33-year-old was eligible for free agency this winter, having just finished a four-year, $24 million contract he signed after the Tigers’ trip to the World Series in 2006. The Tigers have been through plenty of change since, including a brief positional move for Inge a couple years ago, but his defense at third has become one of the constants.

Inge batted .247 this year with 28 doubles, 13 home runs and 70 RBIs in 144 games, having missed two weeks to a fractured hand, but his strength has been his range at third. He ranked third among AL third basemen in range factor and total chances, though his zone rating ranked more towards the middle of the pack.

The total package was something the Tigers wanted to continue, especially given their desire to retain Jhonny Peralta at shortstop for next year and look for offensive moves at other spots.

“I think with Brandon, you have to know what you have in a player,” team president/general manager Dombrowski said at season’s end. “First of all, he’s an outstanding defensive third baseman. We all know he’s a gamer. He gives you everything he can. He represents what you want on the field. He never leaves an ounce of anything behind that’s out there.

“He gives you some offense. I don’t think you write down Brandon Inge as coming out and hitting 25 home runs and knocking in 100 runs all of a sudden. I think you have to look at the numbers he’s put up and figure that’s probably the type of hitter you have. If he gives you more, that’s great.”

Inge has long expressed his desire to stay in Detroit, but he also wanted multi-year security. He was seeking a three-year deal at one point and had a two-year offer from the Tigers at season’s end, but the third-year option proved to bridge the gap.

“This is where I want to play, as long as they’ll let me,” Inge said at season’s end. “A multi-year [deal], I feel like they’re showing me a little respect. And it’s another thing where everyone’s comfortable with everyone, meaning myself and the organization.

“They know what they’re going to get. I’m going to go out there and play as hard as I can, rain or shine, whether I’m injured or not. And I think it maybe eases their mind a little bit.”

Inge has been in the Tigers organization his entire career, from draft day until now. He made his Major League debut in 2001, and is one of just two players left in town who were around from Detroit’s 119-loss season in 2003 to its World Series trip three years ago. Ramon Santiago is the other, but he was traded out of the organization and came back.

Inge made Michigan his full-time home this year, making him the only Tiger who lives in the area year-round. It appears he’ll be able to commute to work for at least the next couple years.