Red-Hot Eldred Gets Call-Up From Tigers

The Tigers cut veteran Brandon Inge on Thursday, ending one of the more polarizing conversations in recent Detroit sports history. In his place will be Brad Eldred, the minor league veteran who has been tearing it up in Toledo. Will Eldred finally be able to find Major League success?

Brad Eldred has made it quite hard for people to ignore him.

His career thus far has been minor league success with a few stints in the Majors. At this point, he was a 31-year-old veteran who brought a bat to Toledo with little chance of ever being called up. But a combination of offensive struggles in Detroit and Eldred's destruction of minor league pitching to open this season left the Tigers with little choice but to give him another chance.

Through 20 games this season, Eldred is hitting .388 with a minor-league-leading 13 home runs and an unreal 1.457 OPS. He has always had pop, hitting more than 30 home runs in 2008 and 2010, but it hasn't gotten much attention from the Majors as he has gotten older.

Eldred was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the sixth round of the 2002 amateur draft. He got his first Major League call-up midway through the 2005 season. He showed the pop he has always had, hitting 12 home runs in 55 games, but he hit .221, had a .279 OBP and was back in the minors the next year.

He started the 2007 season with the Pirates, but went 5-for-46 (with two home runs) and was back in the minors by the end of May. He became a free agent after the season. He then bounced around, spending one season in various organizations: White Sox (2008), Nationals (2009), Rockies (2010), Giants (2011) and signed with the Tigers on Jan. 21 of this year.

His only other Major League stint was 11 games with the Rockies in 2010. He went 6-for-24 with one home run.

This season, he has torn the cover off the ball, and the Tigers are struggling, having lost five of six. Despite having one of the better lineups in baseball, the Tigers have scored more than four runs in a game just three times since the season-opening sweep of the Red Sox.

"He might be the spark they need," said an NL scout. "See if he can run into a couple while he's on a hot streak."

Again, he's been called up for his bat, and that's it. He's a first baseman/DH with some outfield experience, but don't expect the Tigers to play him anywhere in the field other than first — if they play him in the field at all.

What has been the difference for Eldred this year? The NL scout said his swing looks a little shorter, but it might just be a temporary adjustment. Whatever he's doing, it's working.

"He's absolutely locked and loaded right now," said the scout. "I mean seriously dialed in."

As for his Major League potential, he hasn't proven he's been able to handle the better pitching, and there really isn't a reason to think anything has changed. The Tigers are simply taking a chance that he could be a spark.

"I still don't think he can hit a big league breaking ball, but he's going to swing hard trying," said an AL scout.

Danny Worth would have seemed to be the logical call-up with Inge being cut, but the Tigers are taking their chance with Eldred's bat.

"It's a worthwhile experiment, but I don't see it being some big boost," said the AL scout.

If Eldred doesn't work out, Worth could end up getting the call-up. But for now, Eldred is getting one more shot to see if he can finally translate that minor league success into something bigger.

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