DETROIT -- Manager Jim Leyland was not exactly in a mood to talk about lineups before Tuesday's game.
"If you guys want to make a better lineup, write it," Leyland said.
But he eventually did talk about his decision to keep Magglio Ordonez from his lineup for the series opener against the Indians.
"Magglio's going to play three out of four [this week]," he said.
Ordonez's return on Monday counted as one of those games. Leyland decided that Tuesday would be the rest day because it allowed him to get an extra left-handed bat into the lineup against Cleveland sinkerballer Justin Masterson, who had held right-handed hitters to a .194 average this year entering the contest.
Inge feeling energized and eager to return
DETROIT -- Miguel Cabrera looked across the infield during batting practice on Tuesday afternoon and saw a familiar face.
"Heeeeyyyyyy!!" Cabrera shouted playfully to third base.
Brandon Inge waved back, then took another ground ball.
Inge was only away from the team for about a week and a half, isolated while contagious with mononucleosis, but it felt like longer to him.
"I missed this," Inge said afterward.
The Tigers have fared well enough without him, winning seven out of 11 since he went on the disabled list, but they still missed him. And the way he felt on Tuesday, it's looking more and more like he might not be off the field much longer, and he could push to be ready for June 17, when he's eligible to be activated.
"Once I'm eligible to come off, I want to be back right away," he said.
It will be up to manager Jim Leyland and team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski to figure out how to fit Inge in, and who loses out once he returns. But one factor is the question of who they're getting.
Inge was batting .211 with 12 RBIs and just nine extra-base hits when he went on the DL on June 3, including a .219 average with just two extra-base hits and no home runs in May. It's a matter of opinion how much of an impact the illness had on Inge at the time.
Inge fell ill during the early May series at Minnesota, suffering from a high fever, aches and pains. The fever subsided, but he still felt a lack of energy.
"I just assumed I couldn't beat this bug," Inge said.
He'd had mono for at least two weeks when the results of his blood tests came back on June 3.
"It's funny," he said, "because when I went on the DL, I felt fine."
That seemed to indicate that Inge was in the later stages of the illness. Because he was still contagious, though, he had to be kept from the team. He also had to wait to make sure that his liver and other organs showed no signs of any problems.
Inge spent a week at his family's second home, in South Carolina, to avoid the risk of passing the virus to his kids. Tuesday was his first day with the team after being cleared for workouts Monday night.
Inge can feel the difference between the energy he has now and what he had then. The results he produces on the field remain to be seen.
"I expected more of myself when I wasn't feeling well," he said.
So, of course, did the Tigers. Don Kelly has handled third base respectably in Inge's absence while producing some decent hitting. Kelly was getting some starts at third before Inge was diagnosed, so it wouldn't be a shock to see him share time there when Inge comes back.
Leyland contemplating Avila at third vs. NL
DETROIT -- One big reason why manager Jim Leyland ranted against Interleague Play last month was the loss of the designated hitter when American League teams play in National League parks, especially when they play multiple series in a row. Detroit has a six-game road trip such as that coming up, to Colorado and Los Angeles, and a decision to make with regard to Victor Martinez and Alex Avila.
The solution might involve Avila's return to the hot corner for the first time since his first couple of seasons at the University of Alabama.
"I'm contemplating playing Alex a game at third base, maybe," Leyland said. "It's just a brain cramp that I've been having, to create ways to get him and Victor in the lineup."
Avila took ground balls at third during batting practice on Tuesday after Brandon Inge and Don Kelly had completed their work. He does that from time to time to improve his footwork, and though he isn't making much of it quite yet, he's open to it.
"If he puts me there, he puts me there," Avila said. "I was a third baseman before. I highly doubt that's going to happen, but it's tough to have to play six in a row knowing that myself and Victor aren't in the lineup every day. We just have to figure out a way to get it done."
When Avila was jokingly asked if he was on the same career path as Inge, a former catcher turned third baseman, he laughed.
"You see how his knees are? I think I'd rather stick to one position," Avila said.
Close play prompts talk of plate collisions
DETROIT -- The moment Tampa Bay's Justin Ruggiano was called out at the plate on a close play and controversial call on Monday night, the question was bound to come up: Should he have tried to collide with Alex Avila, and would it have been right?
Ruggiano provided the answer.
"If they're going to give catchers the benefit of the doubt on those plays, then I feel like that narrows down our options to a collision at home every time," Ruggiano said on Monday. "It's not something that you want to do, but for me now, it seems like if there's anything close, I'm going to have to make a decision."
Avila indicated that he was ready for a collision. He doesn't want to go down to his knees to prepare that way.
"The thing I always try to avoid is going down to my knees when the ball's coming to me," Avila said. "I always try to stay on my feet. That way I can brace myself for anything."