Betemit’s knee flares up again, not ready yet

UPDATE: Team doctors examined Betemit later Monday afternoon. According to Betemit, everything was fine aside from the inflammation. He’s hoping for good news Tuesday.

Wilson Betemit came to Comerica Park early on Monday with a plan to start at third base, his first start in a week and a half. It was supposed to be his first of three games to get ready for the postseason. Then he tried to push off with his left knee moving for a ball.

Now, his situation is a question mark once again, and his manager is increasingly concerned.

“He’s not right,” Leyland said. “I’m worried about Betemit. And I’ll leave it at that.”

Betemit sounded a little less concerned as he tried to clear up his own situation, but nonetheless anxious. He played in three straight Division Series with the Braves and Dodgers from 2004-06, and he has a very good chance to start for the Tigers in this one coming up. But he has to be healthy to do it.

He thought he was. Right now, he said, his knee’s “so-so.”

“I went out today to go work on the field,” Betemit said. “and I felt something push on my knee.”

Betemit was diagnosed a week ago with inflammation in the knee after injuring it on a slide Sept. 16 at Oakland. He still has swelling on the inside of the knee, which is where he felt the problem when he went to push off. He also feels discomfort, he said, when he goes into an all-out sprint. He feels fine when he’s batting.

“Hopefully I’ll be fine,” Betemit said, “because, man, I want to play. I have to do everything I can to play.”

With Betemit out, Don Kelly started at third base for the third time in the last four days and the fifth time in Detroit’s last eight games. Cleveland has right-handed pitchers starting every game in this series to end the regular season, so it’s uncertain whether Brandon Inge, Detroit’s defensive replacement and part-time starter at third, might get a start.

Once the postseason begins, that question becomes a lot more interesting, depending on the opponent. The Yankees, for instance, are expected to start lefty CC Sabathia to open their Division Series, then have a handful of right-handed candidates.

Leyland is keeping pretty mum on his postseason roster, and he isn’t going to map out how the Tiger would replace Betemit if he can’t go. While team officials met Monday to discuss the roster, among other topics, they didn’t announce anything. Kelly could be a big part of it, but dedicating him to third base would also take a candidate out of right field. The Tigers also have infielder Danny Worth, but he has played all of four innings at third base this month since rejoining the club from Triple-A Toledo.

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