03/21/08 5:09 PM ET
Inge seeing time at shortstop
Versatile defender eyed as possible backup if Renteria injured
By Jim Molony / MLB.com
Renteria, a late scratch from Thursday's lineup because of lower back spasms, was not available for comment Friday morning. Leyland indicated the 32-year-old's injury is not serious.
"[He has a] stiff back, better but still stiff," Leyland said.
Renteria is day-to-day and could be back in the lineup for Saturday's game against Philadelphia in Clearwater, Fla. He is listed on the travel squad for that game.
In the meantime, Leyland will get a look at Inge -- a versatile defender who has played all three outfield positions, third base and catcher in the past -- at shortstop. Utility infielder Ramon Santiago is also a candidate to back up Renteria, but Leyland already knows what Santiago can do at the position.
"You have Brandon Inge on the team, [and] I think you work him," Leyland said. "If you had to play somebody at shortstop for a month what would be the best way to go? Hopefully that won't be the problem. That's why I want to look at him. If you're talking about two days that's one thing, [but] if you're talking about a lengthy period of time, are we a better club with Inge playing at short or Ramon Santiago playing at short?"
Inge played some shortstop in college but has not played the position during the seven years that he's been with the Tigers. He certainly is athletic enough to handle the position, and fared well against the Blue Jays on Friday.
"We found out a couple of things," Leyland said.
It isn't a question of a roster spot. Leyland said Santiago is already on the club, so he'll have a role regardless. But it makes sense to find out now if Inge might be a better long term option if circumstances dictate one is needed.
"We can't work with him at 30 places, you know?" Leyland said. "We're trying to do a little work with him right now at shortstop, talking to him about positioning and stuff. But we can't cram everything in."
Inge's offense is one of the reasons why he'll get a look at the position in the days ahead.
Santiago, 28, hit .284 in 32 games for Detroit last season, and he has little power. Inge is a career .241 hitter with 13 or more homers in each of the last four years.
"[Santiago] is a really tremendous utility infielder; he can really play shortstop," Leyland said. "And he's swinging the bat better, but you're not going to expect a huge amount of offense from him.
"You know, he's a real bona fide middle utility infielder in the Major Leagues, in my opinion. I love him on the team. He's a good man, never says anything, goes about his business, doesn't bother anybody, doesn't cause any waves."
And he's there for whenever the Tigers need him.
Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.