Thursday, April 26, 2012
After 20 games with the Mud Hens, Eldred has video game numbers going. In 90 plate appearances, he’s hitting .388/.444/1.013 with 9 doubles, 1 triple, 13 homers, and 35 RBI. While mostly being a DH, the big guy’s also played some first and right field this year.
At 31 years of age, the 6’6, 255 pound Eldred has been around the block a few times. He was drafted by the Pirates in the 6th round of the 2002 MLB Draft. In 2004, he was named Pittsburgh’s Minor League Player of the Year by hitting .301 with 38 homers and 137 RBI between Single and Double A ball. In 2005, he made his debut for the Pirates and hit .221 with 12 homers in 55 games. A tendency to strike out a lot had him sent to the Arizona Fall League and he would get injured early in 2006, making him miss the season. Other than 19 games with the Pirates in 2007 and 11 more in 2010 with Colorado, Eldred has been stuck in the minors ever since.
Before Toledo, Big Brad’s other minor league stops have included the Williamsport Crosscutters, Hickory Crawdads, Lychburg Hillcats, Altoona Curve, Indianapolis Indians, Charlotte Knights, Syracuse Chiefs, Colorado Springs Sky Sox, and Fresno Grizzlies. He’s played in 953 minor league games, hitting 240 homers along the way. That’s a lot of long balls and even longer bus trips.
It’s easy to compare him to another former Mud Hens slugger, Mike Hessman. Mike’s still playing in the Astros organization and has seen time in 1682 minor league games, hitting 336 homers along the way. Hess is 34 years old and struggling to hit .160 nowadays. I still think that leaving him down in Toledo while playing a hurt, struggling Brandon Inge in 2009 is was a factor in Detroit’s slide leading up to the infamous Game 163 against the Twins.
Eldred’s a better hitter than Hessman is and was, though. He’s obviously blocked at first in Detroit, but with a team featuring Andy Dirks, Ryan Raburn, and even Brandon Inge as its DH so far with Victor Martinez out for possibly the season, what would it hurt to give “Big Country” Eldred a call up? It would make for a good story, and Cobb forbid, might actually jump start the offense a bit.
But who gets sent down or released? Obviously the easy answer would be offensively and defensively struggling Brandon Inge. But would Mike Ilitch and the Tigers be willing to end the career of the longest tenured Tiger to take a chance on a 31 year old journeyman minor leaguer, no matter how well he is hitting?
Doubtful. Ilitch is very loyal to his employees, especially long-term ones like Inge. But if the man is serious about winning, he might want to make an exception for once.
Unlike Inge, who has used up more last chances than possibly any player in history, Brad Eldred might just deserve his first chance with the Tigers. What could it hurt?
Free Brad Eldred!
EDIT: Less than two hours alter, the Tigers have released Inge and called up Eldred. I'll be damned...