Manager Jim Leyland said on Tuesday he could work Inge into more playing time at catcher after what was a refreshing meeting between the two late last week. Inge went to Leyland on his own and said what he had been feeling recently -- that he was actually enjoying catching.
It's a far cry from the challenges Inge saw in getting back behind the plate during Spring Training.
"I think I'm comfortable now," Inge said. "I think I'm comfortable with catching."
It's not that the adjustment, physical and mental, wasn't there. But once Inge put in the time catching and got comfortable again, some of his old catching instincts kicked in again. As he had said last week, he still thought along with the pitcher on what pitch to throw when he was playing every day at third base, so that part wasn't going to be a big transition for him.
"Once the physical part gets through to where you don't have to think about it, the rest of it becomes easier, too," Inge said.
More importantly, Inge realized the upside of how much control the catcher can have on the course of the game. When Nate Robertson overcame a three-run homer in the first inning Thursday at New York to keep the Tigers close enough to rally for a victory, Inge took pride in that as much as Robertson.
"When I'm in there, I'm dedicated," Inge said. "I want to call a game. I take pride in it. It has definitely changed, I think, for the better."
It was with that in mind that Inge told Leyland he was cool with catching. He still would rather play third base, he cautioned, but he wants to help. He also wants to do whatever can get him playing time.
With Curtis Granderson back in center field every day and Carlos Guillen entrenched for now as the everyday third baseman, catching is his best chance at being on the field.
That, too, is a new development, given how regularly Ivan Rodriguez has caught for the last four-plus years. Being Pudge's backup usually has been an official job title for a lot of bench time and catching relievers in the bullpen. Mike Rabelo's 43 starts last year marked the most by a Tigers catcher not named Rodriguez since Pudge arrived in Detroit in 2004.
Rodriguez is a free agent at season's end.
Leyland wouldn't say how much more time he saw Inge getting as a catcher, only that it would be more time.
"I think he'll fall more into the catching mode here shortly," Leyland said, "and may start getting more playing time."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.