Friday, April 27, 2012

Once a Tiger

The Detroit Tigers have released veteran Brandon Inge.

Brandon Inge’s 12-year tenure as a Tiger, and the more recent question about his future wearing the old English D, is over. The team released the veteran infielder on Thursday, parting ways with one of the last remaining players from their rise from league also-ran to perennial contender.

Brad Eldred, the slugger whose hot start at Triple-A Toledo powered his way into consideration for a shot at the big leagues, will take Inge’s spot on the roster.

It was less of a shocking move, in the wake of Inge’s struggles, as it was an emotional one.

Inge has been in the organization since the Tigers drafted him in 1998, and played in 1,408 games since his Major League debut in 2001. He was a catcher for a pitching staff that included Jeff Weaver, Steve Sparks and Brian Moehler, and a third baseman for the 2006 American League championship team that was led by Kenny Rogers, Ivan Rodriguez, Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen.

He lost his catching job to Rodriguez after the 2003 season, and his third-base job temporarily to Guillen and Miguel Cabrera five years later, yet persevered through both a work ethic that didn’t waver and an athleticism that allowed him to become one of the most athletic third basemen in the game in the middle of the last decade.

At age 34 on this current roster, however, he became a player without a home and a bat without enough hits to carve a role.

“It’s one of those things that you can kind of see how things are going before they come,” Inge said, “but there’s no hard feelings whatsoever. This is my family. This is where I’ve been my whole career. I’ll miss the guys, I will. But a chance to go play maybe somewhere else, it may be a good thing for me personally. But my heart will always be in Detroit, 100 percent, forever.”

The Tigers — unlike some teams (cough Marlins cough) — like to build a legacy and loyalty with their players. Brandon Inge was one of those players in that tradition. Good luck to him.