Notes: Shelton's power serves all fields
First baseman makes up for lineup's lack of strong lefties
DETROIT -- Who needs a left-handed power hitter at Comerica Park when there's Chris Shelton?
When the Tigers sent Carlos Pena to Triple-A Toledo two months ago, they lost the last of their left-handed pull hitters who would take advantage of the ballpark's friendlier right-field dimensions. A few years ago, Detroit's lineup was full of them, from Bobby Higginson -- whose 35 home runs are most in the ballpark's history -- to Robert Fick and Randall Simon, then later Pena and Eric Munson.
Now, other than switch-hitting Dmitri Young and Carlos Guillen, the lefty sluggers are out. The way Shelton hits, however, those new grandstand seats in right field aren't being neglected.
Shelton's ability to hit the ball for power to the opposite field is reflected in his home stats. Four of his six home runs at Comerica Park this season have gone out to right field, compared with one each to center and left. Five of his six doubles were hit to right.
Not even Ivan Rodriguez, who came to Detroit with a well-known reputation for hitting opposite-field line drives with power, can compare to that. Most of Pudge's home runs at home this season have gone out to left, though he hit an opposite-field blast here on Tuesday night.
The ability to hit balls to the opposite field has been the great equalizer for Shelton and a driving force behind his .342 average and his spot batting third in the lineup in Thursday's series finale against the Mariners. The prevailing thought, however, was that he'd have to be able to pull the ball to produce the power expected out of a Major League first baseman.
He's doing that to an extent, and it's been a bigger factor for him on the road. However, his power simply seems to go everywhere, somewhat similar to Magglio Ordonez.
"I just want to hit the ball hard, whether it goes to right field or left field," Shelton said. "Anywhere you put the ball in play hard here, you've got a chance. So far, the ball seems to be jumping a little farther [in right]."
Comerica Park's career home run leader among exclusively right-handed hitters is Craig Monroe with 23, followed by Brandon Inge with 21.
Logan hurting after slide: Nook Logan suffered a hit just above his left ear when he slid into second baseman Willie Bloomquist's knee in the seventh inning.
Logan took second base on a pitchout, his 20th stolen base of the year. Bloomquist had to move to field catcher Wiki Gonzalez's throw, bringing Bloomquist into contact with Logan.
Logan laid on the ground for a minute before getting up. He said he had a small cut and a headache but otherwise felt fine.
Inge back in lineup: A day after Inge said he believed he had fixed his swing, he had his chance to try it out against live pitching. Tigers manager Alan Trammell returned Inge to the lineup on Thursday after a day off, batting him eighth at third base. Placido Polanco returned to second base.
"Talking with [hitting coach Kirk Gibson] about that, he's very confident that he had a good session," Trammell said of Inge, and "that we should get him back in there."
Inge went 1-for-3 for day, grounding out twice against Mariners phenom Felix Hernandez before slapping an eighth-inning single through the middle off Julio Mateo.
"I felt so much better," Inge said. "I can't really explain it, but I feel 10 times better and I feel like I'm right back on track. It's not going to happen the first game, but I pulled out a hit today that I don't think I would've hit last month the way I was hitting. Right now I feel really, really comfortable and I'm getting excited to hit again."
Trammell and Gibson alike believe Inge has found the correction. "A lot of it, I'm sure, is confidence," Trammell said. Without a positive result, any player can say what he wants, but they have to go out and have some success."
Watch your mouth: Fernando Rodney's three-pitch walk to Dave Hansen to lead off the ninth inning on Wednesday night came about accidentally. Home plate umpire Jerry Meals issued a ball for Rodney bringing his pitching hand to his mouth. Rodney said on Thursday he wasn't going to his mouth so much as his face, trying to wipe off sweat.
Rodney walked two batters Wednesday, putting the potential tying run on base, but wrapped up his first save since September 24, 2003 by inducing a game-ending popout from Richie Sexson. Rodney's second save Thursday was somewhat less eventful; he retired the side in order ending with a hard-hit liner from Sexson into his glove.
Tigers give back: Jeremy Bonderman, Omar Infante, Nook Logan, Monroe, Polanco and Young gave a group of area children a game to remember on Wednesday through the MLB Players Trust "Buses for Baseball" program. The foundation provided transportation for children from the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries to attend the game for free, meet the players and receive food, beverages and souvenirs.
The Tigers organization also supports the program, which provides many children with their first opportunity to see a Major League game in person.
Eastern League excellence: The Tigers were voted to have the Eastern League's best hitting and pitching prospects in Baseball America's annual survey. Joel Zumaya was voted the best pitching prospect as well as owning the best fastball, while Don Kelly was honored as best hitting prospect. Closer Edwin Almonte was selected as the best reliever.
On deck: The Tigers will open a three-game weekend series with Cleveland on Friday night with a 7:05 p.m. ET matchup at Comerica Park. Nate Robertson (5-9, 3.85 ERA) and C.C. Sabathia (6-9, 5.16 ERA) will battle in a matchup of lefties.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.