Based on my research, Inge appears to be the only player in the past 10 years with more than five years of major-league service who was designated for assignment, then was recalled by the major-league team that sent him down and then went on to play a significant role [for that team] in the postseason.
The Tigers had designated Inge for assignment last July after he batted .144/.202/.196 in 239 plate appearances. He reported to the Tigers’ Triple-A affiliate in Toledo, and hit his way back to Detroit in August. Upon his return, he batted .262/.315/.436 in 54 plate appearances and earned a spot on the Tigers’ postseason roster. He contributed a .429/.500/.571 line to the Tigers’ winning effort over the Yankees in the League Division Series and a .267/.389/.467 line in the Tigers’ loss to the Rangers in League Championship Series.
Heading into the 2012 season, Inge expected to play third base for the Tigers in the final year of his 2-year/$11 million contract. But Victor Martinez blew out his knee and was lost for the season, leading the the Tigers to sign Prince Fielder and move Miguel Cabrera to third base. The Tigers moved Inge to second base, where he split time with Ryan Raburn and Ramon Santiago. In twenty plate appearances, Inge hit .100/.100/.300. The Tigers released him on April 26.
Four days later, the Oakland A’s — desperate for just a replacement-level third baseman — signed Inge. In eleven games, Inge is producing for Oakland like he did for Detroit last postseason. In 50 plate appearances, Inge is hitting .227/.300/.545 with five walks, two doubles and four home runs. Two of Inge’s homers have been grand slams, including this walk-off slam against the Toronto Blue Jays last week:
He’s also made some nifty defensive plays for the Green-and-Gold, including this catch of Omar Vizquel‘s bunt attempt in the same game as the walk-off grannie.
Whether Inge will continue to produce for the A’s remains to be seen. Fifty plate appearances is a tiny sample size and runs counter to Inge’s career numbers: .234/.304/.389, .301 wOBA and 81 RC+.
Even so, Inge has already accomplished something few other major leaguers have: getting released from one team mid-season, signing with a new team that season, and making an immediate impact for the new team.
To be sure, there are dozens of players who’ve redeemed their careers in the the seasons following an outright release. Among pitchers who’ve recently turned their careers around after getting released there’s Brandon McCarthy, Ryan Vogelsong, Kevin Millwood, Clay Hensley, and Tim Byrdak. Among position players, there’s Casey Kotchman, Melky Cabrera, and Jeff Francoeur.
But few players turn their season around with a new team following a release. Bobby Abreu‘s been given a second chance with the Dodgers this season, after the Angels released him on April 26. After batting .208/.259/.303 in 27 plate appearances with Anaheim, Abreu’s posted a .296/.345/.444 line in 29 plate appearances for the boys in blue. Livan Hernandez has been useful out of the bullpen for the Braves this season, after getting released by the Astros at the end of spring training. In 22 1/3 innings, Hernandez has a 2.17 K/BB ratio and is stranding 81 percent of the runners on base.
Last season, the Rays released Cory Wade from their Triple-A affiliate in June only to see him become a steady reliever out of the Yankees bullpen. The Rangers faced Arthur Rhodes in the World Series after they released him August and he signed on with the Cardinals.
Pat Burrell turned his career around with the Giants in 2010, after the Rays released him in the second year of a 2-year/$16 million contract. At the time he left Tampa, Burrell was batting .202/.292/.333 with two home runs in 96 plate appearances. In San Francisco, Burrell batted .266/.364/.539 with eighteen home runs in 341 plate appearances and was a key component of the Giants’ first World Series Championship since the team moved to San Francisco in 1958.
Unlike Burrell and Abreu, there’s nothing in Inge’s career numbers to suggest he can sustain this offensive production for the A’s over the rest of the season. But Inge has proved us wrong before. And he may just do it again.
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