Inge traveled winding road to milestone
Appreciative of tenure, despite twists and turns
DETROIT -- The list of active players with at least 1,000 games played and all with the same team includes a lot of franchise stalwarts: Derek Jeter (New York Yankees), Chipper Jones (Atlanta), Jorge Posada (New York Yankees), Jimmy Rollins (Philadelphia), Albert Pujols (St. Louis), Ichiro Suzuki (Seattle) and Jason Varitek (Boston), among others.
Add Brandon Inge to the list, as unlikely as it seems.
No, he didn't exactly see it coming, either.
"Maybe we're just a good fit," Inge said with a smile.
Monday's start at third brought Inge to the milestone mark. It came a year after Inge was on Detroit's bench in a part-time role, wondering what his future in Detroit would be despite his long-term contract. A trade that was widely expected once the Tigers traded for Miguel Cabrera never materialized, but the shifts that brought Inge back into a regular role somehow did, starting with the Ivan Rodriguez trade and continuing with Carlos Guillen's shift from third to left.
All the ups and downs in his career -- catcher to third, then to utility player, back to catcher last year, and now at third again -- have allowed Inge to place a different value on his longevity.
"I'd say I'm more appreciative of it," Inge said. "I try to represent this team, this organization very well, the city, the state. I try to play like I think every kid, fan, mom, dad would want to play if they had a chance to play this game. I play as hard as I possibly can. To be able to stay here, for them to keep me around as long as I have, I'm very flattered. Obviously, for them to keep me around as long as they have, they've appreciated it. It makes me feel very good."
He became the longest-tenured active Tiger a couple years ago, though Todd Jones' two Tigers stints comprised more total time. He's the one Tiger left who predates the 2003 team that lost 119 games. That fourth digit under the career game total, though, seemingly adds some luster.
In addition to the players listed above, the group includes Michael Young (Texas), Lance Berkman (Houston), Todd Helton (Colorado), Eric Chavez (Oakland), Vernon Wells (Toronto) and Jack Wilson (Pittsburgh). Inge becomes the 14th active member. Brian Roberts could join the group within a few weeks.
"I don't feel that old," said Inge, who turns 32 next month.
The way Inge has been playing lately, he isn't likely headed anywhere. With four home runs already this season, he has been far from an offensive liability. Inge has played every inning of every game so far this season.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.