In keeping with the theme of unpredictability tied to this season of Athletics baseball, we have a situation where the impending return of Brandon Inge from his shoulder injury could jeopardize the playing time of… Josh Donaldson? Yeah the same Josh Donaldson who couldn’t be sent down to Sacramento fast enough earlier in the season after posting a pitiful .153/.160/.235 line. Since he was brought up out of desperation on August 14 he’s posted a .386/.438/.591 line. This offensive outburst came out of nowhere and has been a very welcome sight for A’s fans, but such a small sample size still leaves a ton of mystery as to what version of Josh Donaldson is the true one.
On the other hand Brandon Inge has become an integral part of this team despite two trips to the disabled list. He isn’t the long term answer at 3rd by any stretch of the imagination, but he most definitely can provide just enough with the bat, and an above average glove that the A’s need for the stretch run in 2012. He’s an incredibly streaky hitter, as he has been his entire career, but when he’s hot he’s as hot as anyone in baseball. Not to mention the fact that he was the inspiration for the dance craze that has taken the 510 by storm, The Bernie.
There is really no reason for the A’s to deprive Donaldson of playing time even when Inge returns, so how can the A’s possibly keep them both in the lineup regularly? It might take a bit of out of the box thinking, and it may put to the test the notion that everyone is focused on the team above all else. There have been whispers around the Athletics universe that perhaps Brandon Inge could slide over to 2nd base, and it just might be crazy enough to work, but it would take some convincing.
A major reason Inge signed with the A’s in the first place was because the opportunity to play everyday at 3rd base had presented itself. So there is the risk that he might not appreciate the team asking him to switch positions after essentially losing his job when he injured his shoulder. After his blistering hot start with the A’s, and his seemingly endless slump that followed, he finally began to hit again during the month of July and he seemed to have settled in a nice middle ground before he got hurt.
Earlier this season he was asked by the Detroit Tigers to move over to 2nd after the team had acquired the services of Prince Fielder through free agency, Miguel Cabrera moved to 3rd to make way for Fielder and Inge was left without a position. He did accomodate the team in an effort to keep himself in the picture, but the experiment only lasted 6 games because Inge wasn’t hitting at all. He seemed to hold his own in the field though, making just a single error in 43 innings at the position.
It’s a move that seems so logical because the A’s have gotten nothing from the 2nd base position this year, and Cliff Pennington is continuing to demonstrate that he’s not the one who’s going to change that. While Jemile Weeks attempts to find his swing in Triple A, Brandon Inge can and should hold down the position that will be there for Weeks in the future. The A’s have a tremendous opportunity to make this a memorable season, and every member of the team should be willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen. That means leaving Donaldson at 3rd until he stops hitting, and moving the veteran Inge to the right side of the infield.