Brandon Inge makes his A’s debut at third base

The A’s welcomed in a new face and got reacquainted with a very familiar one before tonight’s series opener at Fenway Park …

Brandon Inge is starting at third base today and hitting eighth after finalizing a one-year contract earlier this afternoon. And you’ll see him there plenty, as all indications are he’ll be the everyday man at third. “It’s not a knock on anybody (who has played) there,” manager Bob Melvin said, “but we finally feel like we have a third baseman we can plug in there every day.” Inge came across as a very chatty and good-natured guy in dealing with reporters. And he’s got the intangibles Melvin likes. “He’s a gamer. You just watch the way he plays the game, and I think it’ll be good for our younger players to watch that as well. He’ll dive into the stands, he’ll lay out (for a ball) all day long. He’s the type of player we think can be conducive to moving forward and showing this group of young guys how we expect you to play the game.”

But I know the question you really want answered: Can the guy still hit at all? He’s never been a high-average guy (.234 mark over a 12-year career) and he’s logged four seasons of 134 strikeouts or more. Inge has power, but his last really good power year came in 2009, when he slugged 27 homers. He was no longer in the Tigers’ plans after Miguel Cabrera switched from first to third base to make room for Prince Fielder. Despite getting just 20 at-bats before Detroit released him, Inge thinks he was swinging the bat well. He pointed to the homer he hit to deep center field at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium. “I’m excited about the strength and power that’s there, so now when I get the at-bats, I’m really going to be able to see what it’s going to (amount) to,” Inge said.

And though Inge grew up in Virginia, he surprisingly liked the A’s growing up. One of the first games he attended was an A’s-Royals game in Kansas City. “I remember watching Mark McGwire and Rickey Henderson taking batting practice out there,” he said. “ I was a huge fan of this team, so it’s kind of funny that now I get to be a part of an organization that’s had such a rich history.”

–I’m guessing many of you are surprised by the season Ryan Sweeney is having with Boston, no? He’s not in the lineup tonight against lefty Tommy Milone, but Sweeney has been quite a story. Who knew he would be the one having the immediate impact for the Red Sox instead of Andrew Bailey? Sweeney entered Monday hitting .373 and was leading the American League with 11 doubles. He says he hasn’t changed much in his approach, but he’s definitely warming up to Fenway Park as his baseball home. “When you have that confidence at the plate and you know you can hit a ball out to center or right, or hit one off the Monster, it gives you that presence that you feel better when you’re up there.” He also said getting to watch left-handed hitters David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez every day has made him a better hitter.

Sweeney chatted with Daric Barton, Kurt Suzuki and Jerry Blevins among others before the game.

The lineups:

A’s – Weeks 2B, Crisp LF, Reddick RF, Cespedes CF, Smith DH, Suzuki C, Barton 1B, Inge 3B, Pennington SS; Milone LHP.

Red Sox – Aviles SS, Pedroia 2B, Gonzalez 1B, Ross RF, Ortiz DH, Shoppach C, McDonald LF, Byrd CF, Punto 3B; Buchholz RHP.

Kevin Youkilis was a late scratch for the Sox.

Joe Stiglich