Inge not looking to platoon at third base

Inge not looking to platoon at third base

Published Jan. 20, 2012 11:25 a.m. ET

DETROIT -- Spring training is still a month away but Brandon Inge is already staking his claim to third base.

"I'm not really playing for a platoon spot," Inge said at Comerica Park before the Tigers began their Winter Caravan. "I love (Don) Kelly, I really do. But I'm not playing for a platoon spot. I want to play every day. I've been working this offseason to get in shape and prove that last year was a fluke. I'm more motivated than I ever have been, so I'll let them make their own decision after spring."

Inge is not a fool. He knows that the team had no choice but to designate him for assignment last July. Inge, 34, was hitting .177 with one home run and 17 RBIs.

That was why he accepted an assignment to Triple-A Toledo, where he hit .287 with seven home runs and 19 RBIs in 29 games.

In the interim, the Tigers traded for Wilson Betemit, who was not re-signed following the season.

While no one expects Inge to be Adrian Beltre, who hit .296 with 32 home runs and 105 RBIs as the Texas Rangers third baseman last season, Inge will have to hit better than .197 with three home runs and 23 RBIs in 102 games.

"Brandon Inge will get every opportunity to play third base and if he can play third base on an everyday basis, it's actually better for our team," manager Jim Leyland said. "I want Brandon Inge to play third base every day because if he's playing third base every day, that means he's hitting good and driving in some runs, too. I hope that he wins that job."

Inge's best statistical season was 2006, when he hit .253 with 27 home runs and 84 RBIs. He hit 27 home runs as recently as 2009.

Inge said he has been working out diligently and has added muscle, which might have prompted Miguel Cabrera's reaction to seeing Inge.

Cabrera walked over and said, "I'm Brandon Inge, I'm going to hit 25 home runs."

"Thirty," retorted Inge.

Cabrera smiled and said, "I'm going to hit 30 home runs."

If Inge were to hit 20 home runs, Leyland and the Tigers would be delighted.

For now, Inge is steadfast in his conviction that he will be the Tigers' every-day third baseman this season.

"They can do what they want. I'm not taking any other mindset," Inge said. "I'm just going about my business. That's what I want to do, I'm going to work for it and we'll see what happens."