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Inge will return to Tigers on Thursday

Inge could return as soon as Thursday

DETROIT -- Brandon Inge will be back with the Tigers on Thursday after he closed out his Minor League rehab stint Wednesday night.

The Tigers activated Inge from the 15-day disabled list following Wednesday's win over the Indians. They designated for assignment the contract of backup catcher Dane Sardinha to make room.

Inge caught for four innings and played third base for the other five as scheduled Wednesday night for Triple-A Toledo in its 2-1 win over Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, leaving him at 3-for-10 with a home run and four RBIs for his three-game rehab assignment.

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So far, Inge has shown little to no effect from the left oblique pull that hampered him for almost all of June until he went on the 15-day disabled list June 23. The injury affected him more at the plate than in the field, he said, but it has not been a factor since he began taking swings in batting practice last week.

The Tigers open a four-game series against the Twins on Thursday with a 1:05 p.m. ET game at Comerica Park. Three of the games in the series will be afternoon starts. Leyland said he expects Ivan Rodriguez to start three of those four games behind the plate.

Inge had been starting every other game before he was injured. Since then, however, Rodriguez has gone on a tear, batting .400 (30-for-75) over his last 20 games. Even after Rodriguez began playing the majority of games again, he hasn't shown obvious signs of fatigue from the wear and tear.

Inge is batting .215 (31-for-144) for the Tigers this season, with seven doubles, two triples, six home runs and 23 RBIs.

Sardinha, whose contract was purchased from the Mud Hens after Inge went on the DL, went 3-for-18 in five games for Detroit. His first Major League hit was a big one, a go-ahead, two-run triple in a June 29 win over the Rockies in Detroit, but he added two singles after that as well as his first run scored in the big leagues Wednesday night.

"I know I still have to work on my offense," said Sardinha, who was hitting .206 at Toledo at the time of his callup. "When that comes, then I can talk more about getting sent down. But right now, I just appreciate them giving me a chance to play up here while Inge was hurt."

The Tigers have 10 days to make a move with Sardinha, but they're expected to try to pass him through waivers in order to outright him to Toledo as insurance in case they need more catching help later.

"I love Sardinha. I really like him," manager Jim Leyland said. "I actually hope he gets claimed, to be honest with you, because that means he's going to go to the big leagues. I really like him a lot."

The Tigers made another roster swap after Wednesday's game by recalling first baseman Jeff Larish from Toledo. Right-hander Eddie Bonine, who started Wednesday's game and gave up five runs over 3 2/3 innings, was optioned to Double-A Erie.

The move gives the Tigers an extra position player for the final four games before the All-Star break and the first four games out of it. They won't need a fifth starter until the second series out of the break, July 21 at Kansas City. They'll evaluate at that point whether it'll be Bonine or another pitcher making that start.

Bonine was optioned to Erie rather than Toledo so that he could start on his regular turn next Monday. The Mud Hens are off that day as part of the Triple-A All-Star break, but the SeaWolves will be playing.

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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