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Leyland juggling catching duty dilemma

Inge's oblique spells Pudge behind plate

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Tigers' plan of alternating is skipping some turns, but that doesn't mean that Ivan Rodriguez is back to playing every day again.

Rodriguez started behind the plate Wednesday afternoon for the third consecutive game, including now a day game after a night game, but manager Jim Leyland said it had more to do with Brandon Inge. Inge is still dealing with a sore left oblique muscle that he pulled two weeks ago at Seattle, and it's bad enough to affect his hitting.

Leyland's focus for now is to make sure the injury doesn't get any worse. He already has Gary Sheffield on the disabled list with an oblique strain he suffered on Memorial Day. Sheffield is on a Minor League rehab assignment, and Leyland can't afford to have that happen to Inge, his second catcher.

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"I'm going to give Inge a day and the day off, see if that helps him," Leyland said of Inge. "Because he's not right, and I'm worried about that. Those things can be lasting and dangerous if you're not careful. I know he's been playing with it, which we talked about, but it hurts."

Inge missed all three games at Oakland on the last road trip after suffering the injury in the series finale at Seattle. He started six games on the Tigers' recent 10-game homestand, but he went 4-for-18 with seven strikeouts in the process. Inge admitted Wednesday that the oblique still bothers him when he swings as well as when he throws.

"Those things are dangerous," Leyland said. "Obliques are the real tricky ones."

If the days off have the desired effect, Leyland will have Inge back at catcher for Friday's series opener at San Diego. And the Tigers will be back to alternating catchers under the plan Leyland decided last homestand. The design was to keep Rodriguez from wearing down.

"I didn't want to catch Pudge today, to be honest with you," Leyland said, "because I'm going to start wearing him down again. That's what's going to happen if I'm not careful, but I can't help it."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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