"Do you wash your hair with shampoo?"
Everyone laughed. The return of Inge has brought a return of jokes and a newfound stress-free attitude that was missing before Inge was designated for assignment in late July. Inge was called up Saturday and was in the starting lineup against Cleveland left-hander David Huff.
Inge's stress-free attitude paid off immediately, as he belted a solo home run on the third pitch he saw in Saturday's win over the Indians. Inge went 2-for-4 with two RBIs in the game. He appeared to have opened up his stance, but Inge said that he didn't notice any change, nor did he care. He just wanted to swing the bat and have fun.
"When I went down there, the furthest thing on my mind was mechanics," Inge said. "I did not care about mechanics, I did not want to hear about my stance, I didn't want to hear [anything]. I just got up there, saw the ball, got comfortable and hit."
Inge battled sickness and a batting average that hovered around .200 for most of the season before the Tigers traded for Wilson Betemit and designated Inge for assignment. Inge chose an assignment at Triple-A Toledo, though he could have chosen to get a fresh start somewhere else.
"They could have released me," Inge said of the Tigers' front office. "That was an option. That was something I could have done. I could have said, 'Fine. Release me and I know I could go to probably 20 other teams and play. Especially National League teams, too.' But I didn't want to. I didn't want to go out like that.
"I still have a lot left. A lot left. I don't care what people say -- I know in my heart that I have a lot left, especially after going down now. I understand how I work best."
Inge said that his head cleared up as soon as he got to Toledo. He didn't care when the Tigers would call him back, he just wanted to go down and have fun. Playing without the stress helped him realize how much that stress in Detroit had gotten to him.
"I played baseball as a kid because I loved it and because I had fun with it," he said. "Somewhere along the way, during this year, I lost sight of that. Going down there was a pleasant change."
Part of Inge's decision to stay with the organization was the loyalty that the Tigers have shown him throughout his career. He wanted to be just as loyal.
"There's tons of other teams that everyone says they want to go to," Inge said. "But in my opinion, if you've been treated well by an organization and your teammates, why would you buck the horse on that one? Just stay there, ride it out."
Now Inge has returned to the Tigers, who are in the middle of a pennant race. Manager Jim Leyland said that Inge will play against left-handed pitching and as a defensive replacement, while Betemit will play against right-handers. Inge hit .395 against lefties in two stints in Toledo, while Betemit has hit .309 against righties in the Majors this year.
Inge doesn't like being a platoon player; he'd rather be an everyday guy. But he understands why decisions regarding his status have been made. Now, Inge just wants to have fun and win.
Said Inge: "I'm going to make these guys have fun, because I'm tired of watching their butts on TV every once in a while."