The postgame news on Brandon Inge’s season-ending shoulder injury is worth a little follow-up after the A’s 7-1 victory over the Red Sox. On the stat sheet, it might not seem like too much of a blow. Josh Donaldson is ripping the ball right now and filling in nicely in Inge’s absence. But this is an injury in which the effects might not be felt until a few weeks from now, when the A’s are trying to sew up a postseason spot. Inge would have been worth having in the lineup — at third base or second base — just for his veteran experience in high-pressure games. He played in two A.L. Championship Series and one World Series while with the Detroit Tigers, and the A’s don’t have much in the way of postseason experience on their roster.
He’s the kind of player whose impact isn’t completely felt in the box score. It takes place in the clubhouse, in his interaction with younger teammates and the way he goes about his business. That’s the kind of stuff that fans, and to a large extent the media, can’t fully gauge. It’s not surprising that Inge told manager Bob Melvin that he wants to continue traveling with the team after he has shoulder surgery in a week or two. “I want to come back right away,” he said, “dress with the team , travel with the team, because I feel like in this clubhouse I still can make an impact. I’ll keep the boys loose, that’s for sure.”
That sounded good to A’s infielder Brandon Hicks. “I think it’s huge, what he can do in the locker room,” Hicks said.
Donaldson will get his chance to remain the full-time third baseman, and his play has certainly warranted that. He’s hitting .344 with 14 RBIs in 17 games since coming up from the minors. And though he’s made a couple head-scratching plays at third base, he’s also made some excellent plays with the glove too. Will he show consistency — offensively and defensively — down the stretch? The A’s will need him to.
And in case you’re wondering, Inge said there was no use putting off this surgery until after the season. He is going under the knife in a week or two, and he told Melvin he is available for DH or pinch-hitting duties until then. But he also asked Melvin if the manager would use him as a realistic option the rest of the season in a DH or pinch-hitting role (Inge’s shoulder only hurts him throwing, not hitting). “He said maybe, but he couldn’t promise anything,” Inge said. “At that point, I have to do what’s best for my career.”
If there’s any player in that clubhouse who is close to being a coach on the field, it’s Inge. So he can still make an impact, as he desires to. But it will hurt the A’s not having him on the diamond, similar to how it might hurt not having Bartolo Colon pitching down the stretch. This team would benefit from that veteran presence. We’ve seen the A’s overcome some long odds to put themselves in playoff position this season. And now we’ll see how they withstand the loss of Inge, who is a big part of the heart and soul of this team.