DETROIT -- When Brad Eldred signed a Minor League deal with the Tigers over the winter, he was meant to be a veteran bat for the offense ... at Triple-A Toledo.
After three weeks of some of the hottest April hitting seen from a Mud Hen in years, the Tigers are hoping he becomes the spark for an offense that includes Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, but hasn't included many outbursts lately.
In every sense, the 31-year-old Eldred has hit his way into another shot in the big leagues.
"I'm going to run him in there," Leyland said. "He's been one of the hottest hitters in baseball, in the Minor Leagues. I'm DH-ing him and I'm going to put him in that spot. How long depends on how he does."
If he can somehow keep hitting like this, he might be there a while.
Eldred spent 10 Minor League seasons in five different organizations, the first six years in Pittsburgh, with just 282 big league plate appearances to his credit before landing with the Tigers this spring at age 31. With a relatively young everyday lineup, no proven hitters and a history of wrist issues for first-base prospect Ryan Strieby, Eldred gave the Tigers protection, plus maybe a bench bat in case of an injury in Detroit.
The Tigers' lineup is pretty healthy, but the offense is not. Enter Eldred, who hit .388 with 13 home runs and 35 RBIs through 20 games with the Mud Hens. Five of those homers and 10 RBIs came in his last three games, including a three-homer, seven-RBI effort Tuesday night at Columbus. Almost all of those games came as the Hens' designated hitter.
The Tigers have had a rotation going at DH, where seven different players have combined for three RBIs and no home runs. They'll make room for Eldred.
"The guy's doing something right now that everybody's talking about," Leyland said. "I don't know how it's going to play out."