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Notes: Inge squats behind plate again

Notes: Inge squats behind plate again

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- Brandon Inge's return to catching Sunday against Cleveland was supposed to test his skills again, and he certainly represented himself well in that aspect. More than anything, however, it reminded him how much he enjoys third base.

It's not the catching that bothered him, but how it affected him when he tried to hit.

"Catching right there absolutely reinforces that third-base is my all-time love," Inge said. "It's not even a question. If it came down to it, where I was just catching, I'd have to find a way to separate it. I don't know if I can, because I take too much pride in the catching aspect."

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Inge caught for three innings before Dane Sardinha replaced him in the bottom of the fourth. He went 0-for-2 with a called third strike at the plate.

"I'm a much better hitter this year than I have been in a long time," he said. "That feeling that I got today was much more of a downer feeling. Don't get me wrong: The actual catching part of the game [was] fun. It was awesome. But what fires me up is the offensive part. It's very frustrating to me.

"It's a fine line. I'm not saying that I'm frustrated about them making me catch. It's frustrating because the way I feel offensively, and then how I feel catching offensively. It's two completely different things. My mind's not in it. Mentally, if you're not into hitting, you're not going to hit. Especially with the game plan I have now offensively, it's tough."

Inge struggled at the plate during his days as an everyday catcher. His hitting improved after he became a utility player in 2004, eventually settling in at third base. Now, catching is back in his repertoire as he looks at potential utility duty again. He remains on the trading block, while the Tigers look for a team that would use him as an everyday third baseman.

For all the frustration, though, he's trying to catch in games for the first time since 2004. He's not sure whether he'll catch in a regular season game, let alone where he might do that.

"The only certainty is I'm here now," Inge said, "and this is what I'm preparing for."

Rogers returns to mound: To look at Kenny Rogers' uniform after his first outing of the spring Sunday would've suggested he had a slew of ground balls and diving plays. That was far from the case.

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No, most of that dirt came from the round of fielding practice that he took on a back field at Chain of Lakes Park after he was done pitching.

"I try to do it when I'm loosened up and all," Rogers said afterwards in the clubhouse Sunday afternoon, "not when I'm stiff, which will come in about 30 minutes."

From a mound standpoint, Rogers said, "I'm not unhappy," after pitching two scoreless innings against the Indians. Both innings ended with double plays, the second with the bases loaded and hot-hitting Michael Aubrey at the plate.

He stayed mainly with changeups and fastballs while throwing at 90 percent effort to limit wear and tear. His elbow, which bothered him last summer, felt fine, which was expected since he has been able to play long toss this spring.

Still no Cruceta: Francisco Cruceta's effort to get a visa and head to camp still has no end in sight, 2 1/2 weeks into camp.

When Cruceta was late for the initial days, it meant little, since he was still fresh from pitching in winter ball and could catch up. Now that games are under way, though Cruceta has been working out in the Dominican, even manager Jim Leyland admits that they can't assume Cruceta will be here with enough time to make a strong bid for Detroit's bullpen.

"I don't want to be discouraging or anything," Leyland said. "but right now, I'm not counting on Cruceta at all. I know he's been throwing and he's in shape and everything, but I can't make any judgment on Cruceta and not even see him. It's not his fault. I'm not blaming anybody. I'm just saying that at some point, you have to [proceed]. We're not sitting here every day saying, 'I hope Cruceta gets here.' We'd like to see it, but we're going about our business either way."

Rodney update: Fernando Rodney said his shoulder felt fine on Sunday. However, he said he's not scheduled to throw on Monday. Rodney is expected to resume playing catch in the coming days.

Grilli renewed: Unable to reach agreement on a one-year contract, the Tigers renewed right-hander Jason Grilli's contract for 2008. He stands one season away from being eligible for arbitration.

Up next: The Tigers host the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday for a 1:05 p.m. ET matchup at Joker Marchant Stadium. Jeremy Bonderman is scheduled for his second start of the spring, this one opposite new Rays starter Matt Garza.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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