Inge off to fast start for Tigers
Slugger has reached base safely in first 19 games
DETROIT -- Brandon Inge had always tailored his approach at the plate as a see-ball, hit-ball hitter, going more on feel than analysis. Three weeks into the season, he's back to going on feel.
In this case, that's a good feeling.
Instead of having to think about keeping his hands raised, he's doing it by instinct. The big changes Inge made in the offseason are now second nature to him, even if the results from them are causing fans and others around baseball to take notice.
Inge has reached base safely in each of Detroit's first 19 games. It's the longest such streak by a Tiger to open the season since Inge did it in his first 21 games of 2005. His seven home runs through 18 games of a season is the fifth-such accomplishment by a Tiger, last accomplished when Chris Shelton homered nine times in the first 13 games of the '06 season.
Only Tampa Bay's Carlos Pena entered Monday with more home runs than Inge among Major League hitters. Inge barely missed an eighth in his first at-bat Monday, pulling a lined shot foul before lofting a deep ball just on the wrong side of the foul pole. He still ended up with a single through the middle on an 0-2 pitch.
It's not just that Inge has the right approach at the plate. It's that he's able to sense if he's falling out of it.
"It's easier to know what I did wrong," Inge said Monday. "I've got instant feedback. I'm going on feel now, so I know what it's supposed to be."
That's a big step for Inge, who hadn't been a big fan of watching his swings on video until the end of last season. To make the changes he did, he had to watch his approach.
"I don't have to look at film every five seconds," Inge said. "I can tell you exactly what I did as soon as I take a step back out of the box. I can make an adjustment right there, ready to go."
He also had to work closely with Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon, who spent extra time in the batting cages with Inge when both of them were in town for TigerFest in January. Their work will continue, but so far, it isn't a situation where McClendon has to watch and constantly tell Inge what he's doing right and wrong.
"My feel is habit, so I'm reinforcing," Inge said. "Now I've gotten rid of the bad habits, and as soon as I get out of my good habits, I can feel it."
None of this changes Inge's mentality at the plate. He continues to look for pitches he can center and go with them, rather than necessarily changing his aim according to the situation. And he insists he isn't trying to hit home runs, even though they're currently coming in bunches for him.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.