Inside Pitch: What to do with Inge

When the Tigers acquired Miguel Cabrera, that made it clear that would mean the end of the road for current Tiger third baseman Brandon Inge. But that doesn't mean the Tigers are planning on giving him away for free.

INSIDE PITCH
Dave Dombrowski isn't going to give Brandon Inge away.

"There is no need to trade Brandon before spring training starts," the Tigers' GM said. "However, if it makes sense to do so, we will. We will try to honor his request to play every day at third base.

"Normally, established players like Brandon want to play every day and not be super-subs. However, if no deal is completed, he will need to fill this role for us."

There aren't many teams clamoring for a third baseman at this point in the offseason. And because it was known Detroit would have to trade Inge the day it acquired third baseman Miguel Cabrera from Florida, there could be a perception the Tigers will have to give him away just to get rid of him and the $19.1 million he is owed over the next three seasons.

What Dombrowski is doing is confirming he isn't giving away a commodity with value.

The first time a team loses a third baseman to injury in the spring or early in the season, Inge's value will shoot up.

Or if Inge re-establishes that he can be a superb multi-position player, he becomes more attractive to a National League team -- or to the Tigers, should they lose a regular to injury.

Inge could be plugged in at third, second, in the outfield or even behind the plate (where he does not want to return) and perform capably. He could play shortstop on a short-term basis and probably would be outstanding at first base with minimal tutoring.

Detroit doesn't want to pay one of its players $6-plus million for four games a week, however.

What Dombrowski may do is wait. At some point, some team is going to need a player like Inge and will pay the price the Tigers' boss wants.

NOTES, QUOTES
--RF Magglio Ordonez has been named "King Tiger" for 2007 by the Mayo Smith Society. Ordonez edged CF Curtis Granderson in balloting by Society members for the award, given for on- and off-field contributions to the Tigers. RHP Todd Jones and UT Ryan Raburn tied for third. Ordonez led the American League with a .363 batting average and 54 doubles and was second with 139 RBI, 216 hits, a .434 on-base percentage and 354 total bases. Ordonez annually donates $100,000 to the Detroit Tigers charity foundation. He also purchased 50 tickets for underprivileged children to attend a game during Fiesta Tigres, the team's annual Latin-American celebration.

--Cs Dane Sardinha and Max St. Pierre, a former Tiger farmhand, have been signed to minor league contracts with invitations to major league spring training. The two provide Detroit with backups in case C Vance Wilson, who missed last season with Tommy John surgery, is unable to throw well enough to begin the season. Sardinha spent 2007 with Class AAA Toledo, hitting .202 with 10 home runs and 47 RBI in 117 games. St. Pierre was released by the Tigers last season and was tried briefly as a pitcher with another organization. He saw limited action with Class AA Huntsville in the Milwaukee organization in 2007. In 10 seasons in the Tigers organization, St. Pierre batted .254 in 762 games.

--3B Brandon Inge might find himself one of the higher salaried utility players in baseball if Detroit can't make an equitable trade for him by the end of spring training. "There is no need to trade Brandon before spring training starts," GM Dave Dombrowski said. "However, if it makes sense to do so, we will. We will try to honor his request to play every day at third base." Inge has no wish to be a backup at any position, especially catcher, now that he has established himself as a solid defensive third baseman. He was a utility player with the Tigers after they acquired C Ivan Rodriguez and before he became the regular third baseman. "I don't think irreparable harm has been done to his value," Dombrowski said, "since he is a good player. He had already started making some adjustments at the end of last season."

--C Vance Wilson, who missed last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, has been throwing since November but still doesn't know if he'll be game ready by Opening Day. "I'm feeling good," Wilson said. "I'm getting there. One day you feel great, the next day you don't. It's kind of one of those things where I'd be disappointed if I'm not ready for Opening Day, but I'm not going to set any goals." He has been doing catching drills since Thanksgiving at the University of Arkansas near his Springdale, Ark., home. "It's actually a frustrating thought," Wilson said, "because I know I have another month and a half to two months to get to that point. But yeah, I'm getting antsy."

--RHP Matt Mantei signed a minor league contract with the Tigers. Mantei, 34, was hurt two years ago in a comeback bid with the Tigers and never made it out of spring training. He has not pitched since then. "So far, so good," Mantei said. "I've been going four or five days a week. I feel great. I'm at about 85-90 percent, which is what Dave (Dombrowski) wanted." He has not pitched in the majors since July 1, 2005. He had his best seasons in 1999 (32 saves with Florida and Arizona) and 2003 (29 saves with the Diamondbacks).

BY THE NUMBERS: 43 -- Percent of Hall of Fame votes garnered by former Tiger RHP Jack Morris, who increased his vote total by 31 over a year ago and was sixth in the BBWAA balloting. Longtime teammate SS Alan Trammell got 99 votes (18.2 percent).

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Normally, established players like Brandon (Inge) want to play every day and not be super-subs. However, if no deal is completed, he will need to fill this role for us." -- Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski on the future of Brandon Inge, who has been displaced from third base by newly acquired Miguel Cabrera. Inge wants to be traded, but the Tigers have yet to find a deal they like.

ROSTER REPORT
Adding 3B Miguel Cabrera and LHP Dontrelle Willis created ripple effects on Detroit's roster. Cabrera forces Brandon Inge off third base, and the Tigers hope to be able to honor his request for a trade so he can remain a major league regular. Willis filled a rotation spot that RHP Chad Durbin hoped to fill, so Detroit elected not to offer Durbin arbitration, making him a free agent, after attempts to trade him failed. OF Marcus Thames was offered arbitration but remains a likely trade candidate. Re-signing free agent LHP Kenny Rogers filled the other vacancy in the rotation. Re-signing RHP Todd Jones as the closer eliminated a chief need that arose when RHP Joel Zumaya as forced out until at least midseason with shoulder surgery. The acquisition of LF Jacque Jones added a decent left-handed outfield bat to the lineup. The club solved its shortstop problem with the acquisition of Edgar Renteria to facilitate the shift of Carlos Guillen to first base next season. Detroit gambled RHP Francisco Cruceta can provide a cheap, viable alternative to a high-priced, late-inning reliever.


Tigs Town Top Stories