With the arrival of Fielder, Miguel Cabrera’s new home is now third base and Brandon Inge is once again in search of a new position. Inge made headlines with his request to play second base and the Tigers will give him every opportunity to win the job in Lakeland.
Can he switch gears at this point in his career and learn a position that he has never played before? We’ll find out in the coming months, but Inge has two things going for him that will increase his chances: He is a freakish athlete and Rafael Belliard.
Inge’s background is well known. He was a shortstop in college and pitched as well at Virginia Commonwealth. Professionally he has played all three outfield positions, catcher, and third. I have a feeling if anyone on the club can handle a transition like this, it’s Inge.
Yet, it is not as easy as it may seem on the surface. Different footwork, different assignments on relays etc… The fact that Inge is willing to give it a shot is a good start. It would stand to reason that a guy that can play as many positions as Inge can, should be able to handle second base. It’s more involved than that.
There is a big difference between showing up at Softball City in your summer beer league and giving it a go and actually performing on a big league field on a nightly basis. That’s where Belliard comes in.
For 17 seasons, Belliard was known as one of the top defensive players in the game. You can bet he’ll be joined at the hip with Inge all spring. Most of Belliard’s experience in the major leagues came at the shortstop position, but he also played almost 1000 innings at second base. He has a strong understanding of how to play in the middle of the diamond and the ability to teach it as well.
Belliard’s presence on the Tigers staff will likely be a key to the success of this adventure. Yet, assuming Inge can make the transition defensively, the fact remains that he will still need to improve his offensive numbers to keep the job.
The Tigers have options in Ramon Santiago, Danny Worth and Ryan Raburn. All have their strengths, but if Inge can return to the .250 or .260 range with power, he could be a valuable piece. That, however, will take a big turnaround from his .197 season in 2011.
The Tigers will also have to be sure this will work defensively. With Cabrera moving back to third, infield defense will already be an issue.
We are about to embark on an exciting spring with the addition of Fielder to a playoff team. There are however plenty of storylines to keep it interesting.