Notes: Inge changes approach at plate
Tigers utility man trying something different to boost average
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Now that position players are in camp, Brandon Inge's shift work around the field is on. Lost in the hoopla is his shift at the plate.
For someone who has always been a see-ball, hit-ball kind of hitter and avoided too much focus on mechanics, Inge's struggles last year prompted him to take a good look at his swing this winter. With no games to occupy his focus, Inge took a month off, watched video of his at-bats and tried to sort out what he was doing right and wrong.
The result is a revamped approach at the plate this spring. Now he'll try to put it into practice.
"I wanted to get my mechanics down in the offseason, so I didn't have to think about them when I got here," Inge said. "I realized that there were some things that caused me to get out of sorts, which was making me strike out, which was making me miss that mistake pitch that I should be hitting ... So I was trying to figure out a way to be more consistent.
"I've got a plan coming into the spring now. I've been carrying it out. I'm very excited. I feel really good about it."
A large part of that is simply a shorter swing, which he hopes will allow him to get at pitches he couldn't catch up with when his swing was longer. He wants line drives for base hits if that's what the situation dictates, instead of trying for home runs so often.
Despite a .236 overall average, Inge actually hit .296 with runners in scoring position last season, a 48-point jump over 2006. However, he also had as many strikeouts as hits (35) in that situation.
"Sometimes I think I've got to try too hard, do too much and everything goes out of whack," Inge said, "instead of taking a base hit, taking a little line drive."
Inge is trying that out in batting practice and in the cage, but he expects game action to be the real test. Most likely, he'll be trying that while adjusting to different positions on defense.
Inge was behind the plate for about a week while pitchers and catchers were the only ones officially working out. Now that position players are in camp, too, Inge is taking ground balls around the infield.
"Last year, to me, this team was the best team in baseball," Renteria said. "Now I think it's a little better. It's amazing. We have a lot of good players, but that doesn't mean anything. We have to do it in the field."
Renteria will have to do it changing leagues. His one year in the American League was a struggle in Boston in 2005. Signed as a free agent by the defending World Series champions, he batted .276 with eight home runs, 70 RBIs and 100 strikeouts -- good numbers, but not up to his career averages. His 30 errors that season remain a career high.
The Red Sox traded him to the Braves at season's end for prospect Andy Marte, then traded Marte soon after. Renteria was an All-Star in Atlanta, where he committed just 24 errors the last two seasons combined.
"It was a bad year," Renteria said of 2005. "Anybody can have a bad year. It was on the defense. It wasn't the offense. If you see the numbers, it was right there. But this year, I'm more prepared, because I've played in the American League one year already and I'm ready to play."
Speaking of shortstop: Renteria's arrival will allow the Tigers to move Carlos Guillen to first base on a full-time basis. Manager Jim Leyland expects to keep him there, barring an emergency.
"I don't want to say never," Leyland said Tuesday, "but I think we've made that move. We'd like to just keep that consistent. I think you make a mistake if you start going back and forth."
All 162 games on the tube: The original Tigers broadcast schedule called for all but one game to be televised, the one exception being an Aug. 2 game at Tampa Bay that fell within the blackout window for FOX's Saturday Game of the Week. Now, even that game will be broadcast.
FSN Detroit won't be able to broadcast the first hour or so of the game, slated to start at 6:10 p.m. ET, because of that blackout window. Instead, it'll join the game in progress beginning at 7 p.m. ET, when the window is lifted. As a result, the Tigers will have all 162 games televised for the first time in franchise history.
Quotable: "Polanco, I watched him take one round [of batting practice] today. He got six hits. ... It was amazing. His first day, he hit a home run, two hits to left, three hits to right. I don't know how it happens. That's just the way it works." -- Leyland on Placido Polanco
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.