Tigers release Inge, who became lightning rod for fans

Over the last 30 years, only Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell played more games for the Tigers than Brandon Inge.

No one got stronger reaction from Tiger fans.

Not Whitaker. Not Trammell.

No one.

Some loved Inge, whose Tiger career included both the 119-loss season of 2003 and the World Series season of 2006.

As many or more hated Inge, who hit .197 last year and was hitting just .100 when the team released him Thursday afternoon.

The Tigers announced that Brad Eldred, who has been ridiculously hot at Triple-A Toledo (.459, 8 home runs, 24 RBI in just the last nine games) will be called up to replace Inge on the roster for Friday night's game in New York.

The 31-year-old Eldred, a career minor leaguer who last played in the big leagues two years ago with the Rockies, may or may not provide a boost to a Tiger team that just got swept at home by the Mariners. But for the Tiger fans who had come to hate even the mention of Inge's name, the news of his release far overshadowed the news of another loss.

"Rejoice!" one Tiger fan wrote to me on Twitter.

"Our long national nightmare is finally over!" wrote another.

"Ding dong, the Inge is gone," wrote a third.

You wouldn't think fans would care that much about a guy who had just 20 at-bats (and just two hits) in the team's first 19 games. You'd think they'd be more concerned that Prince Fielder has now gone 17 games without a home run.

But it was Inge, Inge, Inge. And mostly, "Boo! Boo! Boo!"

"No hard feelings," Inge told reporters after he was released. "This is my family. This is where I've been my whole career. I appreciate everything that's happened here."

Inge played 1,408 games for the Tigers, starting at five different positions, plus DH. Inge, who was a shortstop and closer in college at VCU, showed so much athletic ability that teammate Dmitri Young once said: "He not only could play different positions, he could play different sports."

Inge came up to the Tigers in 2001 as a catcher, became a super utility guy when the Tigers signed Pudge Rodriguez in 2004, became a full-time third baseman in 2005, lost that job once when the Tigers traded for Miguel Cabrera, then lost it again when the Tigers signed Fielder and moved Cabrera across the diamond.

Inge then asked for a chance to play second base, and ended up starting five games there. But because he still didn't hit, he had little value.

The Tigers, who tried hard to trade Inge this spring, ended up with little choice but to release him.

The Tigers will be responsible for the rest of Inge's $5.5 million salary this year, and for a $500,000 buyout of his 2013 option. Any other team will be able to sign Inge, who would only cost them the prorated major-league minimum.

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