DETROIT -- Brandon Inge has an infield routine he follows during just about every batting practice -- from Spring Training into September. He doesn't take a ton of ground balls at third base, but he takes ones that force him to move to his left or right, put him in position to try some off-balance throws, test his glovework and test how quickly he can get rid of the ball.
He has the same routine just about every game. To manager Jim Leyland, he has a routine that some of Detroit's young infielders could stand to follow.
"He's a perfect example for a young guy," Leyland said. "He's out there every day, and that's the first thing he's doing, taking grounders. He starts in, then he moves back. He has a plan [for] how he's going to prepare himself defensively. It's pretty good. He doesn't take days off. He doesn't go out and run around the outfield. He takes only so many [grounders] and then he's done, but he keeps working.
"I believe [in] that. I'd rather see anybody just take a certain amount and be through. Work your tail off on 20-25 ground balls instead of taking 40 and just standing out there."
Inge said he starts out taking grounders on the infield grass before hitters start taking hard swings in batting practice, and he'll field without moving his legs in order to practice putting his glove in the right place. It's a lesson he said he learned from former Tigers third baseman Dean Palmer.
Once he steps back and begins moving his legs, he'll rarely get a ground ball right at him from coach Jeff Jones. Instead, he'll take them to each side, backhand stops included. He'll start throwing balls across the infield, then he'll start making double-play throws.
At this point in the season, Inge said, he takes fewer ground balls, mainly for body maintenance. Spring Training, though, is when he gets in a lot of his work -- especially on his reactions to the ball off the bat.
"Most important for me, and I wish more infielders would do it ... in a game, acrobatics, I literally practice them," Inge said. "I'll try to throw from every angle, to as far down as I can go, on purpose. Now, in a game, I've practiced that. I know where it's going to go, so when I let it go [from a certain angle], I know it's going bow out to the left and curve back in."
September success can cloud 2011 picture
DETROIT -- The Tigers headed into September looking at an offseason with a slew of potential changes. A few weeks later, they head into the final couple weeks of the season with a slew of young players getting positive reviews.
So how much does the latter affect the former? That's a very interesting question, says Tigers manager Jim Leyland.
"That's a very tough answer for a manager," Leyland said, "because you don't want to downplay what these kids are doing, but you don't want to get carried away, either. You want to keep the fans positive, and they're excited about some of the young guys now, but you have to be realistic.
"I'll answer that question this way: I think there's some ingredients here that are pretty young that I think can handle the job at this level at some point, for sure. But if you think you can just take all young guys and go walk through a division, that's not going to happen. You're going to get your tail beat. ... You have to make sound judgments as an organization."
Four months ago, Leyland pointed out, Brennan Boesch was the toast of the town. Now, Leyland said, fellow in-season callups Casper Wells and Will Rhymes are attracting a lot of attention.
Nobody expects the injury-forced youth infusion to keep the Tigers off the market this winter. They're still going to seek some proven help for their offense, and they have a lot of potentially open positions they can use to fill that. But the recent success gives them a way to fill at least some of their spots from within. Leyland said earlier this month that he expects Boesch to compete for a spot next year, while team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski told WDFN a couple weeks ago that he would feel comfortable if they went into next season with Rhymes and Scott Sizemore at second base.
Short term, the impact remains to be seen. Long term, the influx of production from rookies has provided some evidence that the Tigers can fill some positions from within, something that looked like an iffy proposition at this point a year ago.
"They're not all going to make it," Leyland said, "but a lot of them will. I think the organization is in good shape, to be honest with you. I think it's pretty solid, and I think we're showing that."
Wells racking up more outfield assists
DETROIT -- Casper Wells built a reputation coming up through the Tigers' farm system as having one of the best outfield arms in the organization. Now that he's in the big leagues, he's climbing the ranks among the better arms at the top level -- at least to his current coaches.
"We've got two of the best in the league with him and [Ryan] Raburn," manager Jim Leyland said.
After racking up double-digit assists in each of the last three seasons, Wells is putting up defensive numbers in Detroit in a smaller sample size. His throw to retire Kila Ka'aihue trying for a two-out double in the seventh inning on Monday was his third in 26 games in the Tigers outfield, 14 of them starts.
"You have to make him make the play," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "The ball made a perfect bounce right back to him and he made a perfect throw. Anything outside of that, Kila makes it."
Leyland called it the play that saved the game, since it stopped a Royals rally after the Tigers took the lead in the previous inning. Wells had just entered the game as a defensive replacement in right field.
"He's a really good outfielder, a really good outfielder," Leyland said.
One Major League scout compared Wells to an outfielder in a football player's body. Despite a 6-foot-2, 210-pound frame, Wells has speed to cover a good amount of ground in the corners and a strong, accurate arm to get the ball back into the infield. He racked up the vast majority of his Minor League assists as a center fielder, though team officials have said they envision him as a corner outfielder exclusively.
Porcello struggles to keep pitches down
DETROIT -- The Tigers' comeback on Monday night stretched Rick Porcello's unbeaten streak to five consecutive starts, but it did little to lift Porcello's spirits about his start. After pitching at least seven innings in each of his last four outings, winning all of them, Porcello lasted just 5 1/3 innings, giving up five runs on 12 hits.
Yuniesky Betancourt's three-run homer in a five-run fourth inning was the only one of those hits that went for extra bases, but Porcello still struggled to get his sinker down, as well as other pitches.
"They just a good job putting the ball in play, found some holes and put up the big inning," Porcello said. "It was tough for me to come back from. It stinks, but that's the way it is. I was just leaving too much stuff up for them to put the bat on the ball. It's on me."
The Royals pounced largely on Porcello's secondary pitches. Betancourt's homer came on a hanging slider, which Porcello believes marked the first hard hit off his slider since he rejoined the team after the All-Star break. A couple other hits came off changeups he left up a little too much.
Porcello has adjusted in past outings after early struggles. This time, he said, he actually went in the opposite direction.
"It almost felt like, as the game went on, I was having a harder time, which is usually very uncharacteristic for me," Porcello said. "Usually if I have a rough inning early, I'm able to settle down."
Porcello said he didn't think his extra rest had anything to do with it. He missed a turn last week at Texas with a finger issue, but said he threw an extra bullpen and felt like his stuff was sharp before going out to the mound.