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It’s customary that any time a former Mud Hen returns to Fifth Third Field with the opposing team, that player becomes the game’s ice cream strikeout player.
On Monday, Brandon Inge was no exception.
But Inge, who now plays for Indianapolis after playing for the Tigers for 12 years, flipped the script when he struck out to lead off the sixth.
He tipped his cap.
It was a subtle reminder that Inge, who helped Indianapolis to a 5-4 win over the Hens, still holds a place in his heart for the Tigers and the Mud Hens.
“Hard feelings? Never,” he said. “[Detroit] will always be the No. 1 home for me. I still live there, and I thoroughly enjoyed all the years that I played there.
“And all the friendships that I made there — and here? They will stay forever.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Indianapolis at Toledo, April 16.
It’s been nearly a year since the Tigers gave Inge his unconditional release. He signed with Oakland on April 30 and hit .226 in 74 games while battling a groin and shoulder injury that eventually ended his season in September.
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“Going to Oakland was a lot of fun,” he said. “They appreciate me over there, and we did well. We played with some heart, had some fun, and made the post-season.”
The 35-year-old Inge signed a minor-league contract with the Pirates this off-season, but his chances of making that club were ruined when he was hit by a fastball in spring training and fractured his scapula.
“I played through it for a week, and then I realized there was nothing I could do about it,” he said. “Now I’m trying to get to a point where I can help them in Pittsburgh.
“This is basically my spring training. I’m trying to get some at-bats and play in games consistently, and when I’m ready I should be back up.”
Indianapolis manager Dean Treanor said he’s just happy to have the versatile Inge — he played left field Monday, and already has played both second and third base — on his team’s roster.
“It’s good for our guys to have that veteran presence in the clubhouse,” Treanor said of Inge. “He’s been up there [in the major leagues] and done that, he has playoff experience, and it’s only going to help our guys be around somebody like that.”
Inge got the Indians on the board in the first when, with Josh Harrison on second, he slammed a pitch high off the left-field fence for an RBI double.
Toledo got a big hit from Ben Guez in the third to take the lead. With the bases loaded and two outs, Guez — who came into the game batting just .167 — lined a bases-clearing double.
“It took me a little longer to get my timing and rhythm down than I would have hoped,” said Guez, who added a single and a walk. “But I found it, it clicked and it worked.
“I knew, with the bases loaded, that he had to throw a strike. I didn’t want to expand the [strike] zone and get away with throwing a ball, and luckily I got a good pitch to hit — and I drove it.”
Indianapolis scored a run in the fifth that the Hens got back in the sixth. But the Indians rallied for three runs in the eighth to post the come-from-behind win.
Toledo reliever Evan Reed gave up two singles and a walk to load the bases, and Indy’s Matt Hague greeted reliever Bruce Rondon with a two-run single through the hole at short to tie the game. Jerry Sands then brought home the winning run with a single up the middle.
“The only thing I didn’t like about that inning was the walk,” Toledo manager Phil Nevin said. “You can’t walk guys late in the game. Those always come back to haunt you.
“Rondon came in and did his job. If the ball had been hit a foot to the right, he’s probably out of the inning [with a double play].”
Contact John Wagner at:email@example.com,419-724-6481 or onTwitter @jwagnerblade.