By Sean Gagnier
Brandon Inge didn't have a good 2011, but according to him was going to "stop being nice" in the future years and improve his hitting while manning his position at third base. That was before Mike Illich spend nearly a quarter of a billion dollars on a new first baseman. The addition of Prince Fielder posed a problem for the Tigers, who now had to find a place for American League batting champion, Miguel Cabrera.
That problem was fixed when Manager Jim Leyland and General Manager Dave Dombrowski agreed that moving Cabrera to third was the best choice for the team - that move may have been good for the Tigers but not so good for Inge. During the press conference to announce Fielder, the question came up about Inge and Leyland told the media crowd that Inge "was not a happy camper" in regards to being displaced from third.
As Spring Training approached Inge was trying to find a way that he could still contribute to the club and play every day - third base was occupied, as was short stop and catcher, first base was also out of the question which left one place, second base. Second base has been a problem for the Tigers for some time now, with Leyland being content to head into the season with a platoon of Ryan Raburn and Ramon Santiago.
When it became known that Inge was intending on competing for the second base job a good portion of Tiger-nation let out a groan. He was the last to arrive in Lakeland, Fla. for Spring Training but has been given his shot at the second base position and if you believe Dombrowski, Inge has been All-Star quality. MLB Radio talked to Dombrowski about Inge playing second base earlier this week.
During Spring Training, Inge has made one start at second in a game against the Atlanta Braves in which he made a couple solid defensive plays. But his defensive ability was never what made Tigers fans boo him during the season or groan when they heard his name announced to come to the plate during a rally - to say Inge struggle with the bat last season is an understatement.
Dombrowski has said that Inge has been very good offensively and he has been using the whole field when he hits. But he preferenced that statement by saying that they didn't want to get carried away but went on to say that if Inge keeps up his performance he could get "a lot" of playing time this season.
So like it or not, it appears as though Inge will work his magic once again and find his way back into the every day lineup - which could either be a very good thing defensively for the Tigers or very bad for the Tigers offensively. Only time will tell whether or not Inge will be the every day second baseman out of Spring Training.