Day 5: Inge finally joins the fray

The empty spot at Brandon Inge’s locker was filled on Friday. Now we’ll see what role he can fill on this team.

The thing about chronicling who reports early and who simply reports on time is that it’s all usually a distant memory by the time spring training games start. Camps work in stages — first who comes in early, then early impressions on pitchers, then full-squad workouts, then who impresses in spring training games, then the Opening Day roster talk. One stage might bleed into the next, but it usually doesn’t bleed far beyond that.

As long as I’ve known, Inge has been a guy who reports on time, but not especially early. It just doesn’t happen, and this situation probably wasn’t going to change that. Still, his line of reasoning for not doing it this year was telling.

“I didn’t want to take anything away from Prince Fielder, welcoming him,” Inge said. “Obviously I would welcome him in but … this [scene] right here, I didn’t want it to be anything against him. I knew he was coming in. I was just kind of laying low so I could talk to you guys on my own, get it out separately, not be a distraction to everyone in there, move on.”

In case you didn’t see the video (it’s on the Tigers site), you could judge what Inge meant by the crowd surrounding him in the photo.

As somebody on twitter pointed out to me, there’s almost a timeline of reporters’ tools in that picture — notepad, recorders, phone as recorder, flipcam, phone as flipcam, handheld recorder. All we needed was a reel-to-reel recorder and a boom mic and we could’ve sent this to the Newseum.

Inge has had some drama here over the years, from being displaced at catcher by Ivan Rodriguez in 2004, to winning the third-base job soon after, to losing his third base job four years ago to Miguel Cabrera, to getting it back, to getting re-signed at the end of the 2010 season, to this. He also has been known for being very good with the media. Friday was a side of Inge that didn’t want a scene. His interview took place outside the clubhouse, and it lasted just over six minutes before he was summoned to an infielders meeting.

His reasoning for the request to compete for the second-base job was up-front and pointed: Gotta try to win a job somewhere.

“I’m not going to play third,” he said. “Miggy’s there for right now. I’m not going to beat him out. So the only potential spot for me to try to win a position, I thought, was second base. I want playing time. I want to stay in Detroit. I love Detroit. So that was a pretty simple decision for me. That was my only option.”

No line about doing what’s best for the team. Nothing about a next phase to his career. This had a little bit of a self-preservation feel to it.

There also was a dose of realism about his situation.

“I just want to play, any spot I can get as far as trying to play on the field,” he said. “I’m happy for the opportunity, basically, to be able to earn some playing time. Nothing’s given. I had a rough year last year, so I don’t blame anyone for it. It’s pretty good. It gives me an opportunity to kind of step back up and earn from the beginning.”

He also said he doesn’t feel what happened last year takes away from the previous eight or nine years, but you get the idea.

His teammates, for what it’s worth, were pretty supportive. Ramon Santiago was quoted somewhere saying he has no problem with Inge competing for playing time at his spot. Justin Verlander was supportive.

“It’s great to have him back,” Verlander said. “I love Brandon to death. Whether he’s playing second base, playing third base, or helping any way he can, he’s an integral asset to this ballclub.”

The saga of Inge at second base won’t get the same attention as Cabrera’s move to third, but it won’t be ignored, either. He’s in great shape with added muscle, but most second basemen are lighter and more agile than most third basemen, so there’s still a big adjustment to make.

This part, the part about reporting to camp, is probably going to be forgotten pretty quickly. If Inge can’t make the move, or if he can’t hit, it’s not going to be because he didn’t get here early.

Actual workout item of the day: So far this week, Tigers batting practice usually has meant Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder trading long balls. And they had their share of decent shots today once live pitching transitioned to coaches’ BP. But two other hitters seemed to stand out Friday.

Brennan Boesch continued to strike the ball with authority, lofting a ball well into the trees beyond right field on one of the back fields. And Avisail Garcia looked so good that he caught Jim Leyland’s attention, prompting the manager to sit in on another BP session with him and watch him go to work.

“He’s a big, young guy,” Leyland said, “and he’s only going to get stronger.”

Garcia hit 11 homers here last summer for the Class A Lakeland Flying Tigers. It’ll be interesting to see how his power translates to the cozier confines of Double-A Erie and the Eastern League, assuming that’s where he ends up.

Actual workout item of the day, part 2: Ok, so yes, Cabrera was still the story of the workout. I wrote about Cabrera’s first day at third base on the site, but just as impressive was the workout he put in before the workouts.

Cabrera arrived around 7am ET, and was out on the field at Joker Marchant Stadium doing his separate workout program. That included sprints around the warning track with a resistance band around him, as you can see in the picture.

Non-actual workout item of the day: It wasn’t just the full squad that reported to the Tigers. Friday’s first full-squad workout attracted CBSSports.com’s Danny Knobler, Foxsports.com’s Ken Rosenthal, ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark, USA Today’s Seth Livingstone, Matt Crossman from The Sporting News, and an MLB Network crew that included Matt Yallof. So, yes, these guys are getting some attention.

Quote of the day: “I can’t worry about the numbers, but I think I can pitch better. That’s what I strive to do.” — Justin Verlander, when asked if he can think about improving upon last year.

Another quote of the day: “I’ll take two championships in nine years with Prince.” — Michael Lapanowski of Rochester, Mich., one of the many Tigers fans who made their way south to watch early workouts this week. It’s not really news that this team has a lot of fans who travel, but the number of fans who showed up for early workouts was surprising. Remembers, games don’t start until next weekend.

24 Comments

Sounds like Inge has accepted the “reality of the situation.” All the hysterical comments on certain message boards about Inge being delusional and egocentric, and trying to steal Santiago’s/Raburn’s spot on the team kind of make me laugh.

Well, it’s always good to laugh.
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I planned my ST trip last November but if I’d known all that would happen between then and now, I’d have opted for an earlier arrival myself.
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I’ll echo everyone else’s sentiments. Jason, these blog entries from Lakeland are first rate.

The media flocks to Inge, and that’s not his fault. This situation should not be a big deal, and players fighting for positions in Spring Training is basically what this time is all about. Things get blown out of proportion with him so easily. I have no problem with a player who just wants to play, and be loyal to his team.
-Mike

Mike,
Very well put. I could not agree with you more. Inge is no dummy, he is totally aware of the situation. Kudos to him for not pouting and looking for another way to play and contribute. He is a text book definition of a team player, that’s why he is so popular.
Jason

We get to live vicariously through Jason’s blog. Not too much sugar-coating, but he writes objectively about what is going on. Reading Miggy arrived at 7:00 am was a real eye-opener for me.
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After all that talk about a mild winter in MI so far, I should have knocked on wood. We got dumped with about 6″ of snow yesterday and today the flakes are still coming down. Those pictures of Florida and the Tigers sure warm my heart, at least. Someone is not going to make the 25 man roster spot.
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These reports, every day, are wonderful. Hope they are as much fun to write as they are to read.
A couple of things I hope we are not hearing and dealing with in July:
“The chain of evidence” (my gosh, what intrigue) in the Ryan Braun “case”.
Austin Jackson’s “leg kick”.
Ramon Santiago being accused of being unable to play “everday”
Brandon Inge trying out for shortstop.
I will say that if Inge were to win the 2B job, a pretty nice scenario to have would be a 3 run lead in the the of the 9th with Fielder just having batted in the 8th. If Inge were at 2nd you send him to 3rd, Cabby to 1st and insert Ramon at 2nd. That’s a pretty good infield.
I don’t believe Brandon will win that job. But, I think one of the most remarkable achievements of last year was how he performed, with his back against the wall, when he was sent down to Toledo.
I think the best case scenario for the Tigers (and I love Ramon) would be to have Raburn become a dependable, confident 2nd baseman and to win that job based on improved defense. That is probably not going to happen and I hope Ramon is given some latitude in a fair competition for the job. It’s not just based on loyalty–the guy brings a little life into the game when he is playing.

Zumaya hurts elbow after 15 pitches!

if they leave Boesch at 2, he’s in the sweet spot in that lineup…could have a tremendous season. trying to remember when Tigers last had his kind of power hitting 2nd. when Boesch has a day off it’ll be interesting to see who Leyland slots there. Santiago? Dirks?

Trammell?
Second one is easy, Raburn

i’m a bit weary of the inge news. seems like a lot of attention to a player who is no longer a core guy on the roster. controversy draws a crowd though…i get it. hope he is able to contribute and leyland finds a way to use him in the best interest of the team.

“As somebody on twitter pointed out to me, there’s almost a timeline of reporters’ tools in that picture — notepad, recorders, phone as recorder, flipcam, phone as flipcam, handheld recorder. All we needed was a reel-to-reel recorder and a boom mic and we could’ve sent this to the Newseum.”
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observant and hilarious. the boom mic does make a cameo appearance in the 3rd photo of this story.

I think all the attention to Inge is what drives some (or many) fans to the negative side of the polarity. Anybody who meets Brandon personally likes him, it seems.
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I see that tweet on Zumaya but haven’t tried to track anything down. Man, I’d really like to see the guy get a shot at it, even if it is with the Twins.

I want to post this link to an interview with Don Kelly who talks about the ins and outs of playing the various defensive positions. If anyone should know, it’s Don, and this is an excellent primer for both new and old baseball fans.
http://www.mlive.com/tigers/index.ssf/2012/02/don_kelly_discusses_challenges.html

I hope Magglio lands a job.

wasn’t it last season his agent said he was in the shape of his life? i’ll bet teams are now remembering that.

lmao at zumaya and carlos. Who will complete the trifecta….maggs, wilson or perry?

nevermind – it was sizemore.

Evan–you never cease to astound me. Not funny.

hey man – i get pleasure out of NOT signing people we should part ways with. Albeit Perry, sizemore and wilson would not fall into that category.

e.g. polanco and fernando

and regarding maggs – i have a mags signed poster in my room (so don’t think i hate maggs) but the whole scott boras thing, for him, should have been over after 2006. And now, i feel, he is suffering because of that decision.

He was the AL batting champion in ’07. Rough year in ’10 when his wife was battling cancer and then broke his ankle. He earned every penny and then some in my book. Memories for a lifetime.

I thought I had been switched to a yankees site for a second.

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