Eldred reflects on return from TigersWritten by Zach Davis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
After a brief stop in the major leagues, the Mud Hens’ designated hitter is back.
Brad Eldred returned to Toledo this week after being called up to play in five games for the Mud Hens’ parent organization, the Detroit Tigers.
“It was a good experience,” Eldred said. “My first game there was at Yankee Stadium so that was a good place to start out, just getting to enjoy the team and being with those guys. You just get to know some of those guys and get to be a part of the lineup of a really good caliber team.”
Eldred got the call up thanks to a pair of moves by Detroit. He originally was promoted to replace released infielder Brandon Inge and remained on the squad with the suspension of designated hitter Delmon Young. Eldred competed in five games for the Tigers, going 3 for 16 at the plate with one run and one RBI, striking out six times. He played in three games against New York and two against Kansas City.
For the 31-year-old Eldred, the promotion came as a bit of a surprise. For a minor league designated hitter who can play first base, looking up at a major league roster full of first base and designated hitter possibilities including Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Young was far from an ideal situation for an aspiring MLB player. With his success in Triple-A and Young’s suspension, however, he was able to get that shot.
“Did I really expect to get called up? Probably not,” Eldred said. “At the same time, I got a chance to play a few games and hopefully moving forward I will get a few more chances. You don’t know what is going to happen with guys getting hurt or traded so all you can really do is take care of your end of it by playing well so that if something comes up you get the chance to play up there.”
For Eldred, the promotion made the fourth year of his career he’s reached the majors and the first with Detroit. Eldred has previously reached MLB in 2005 and 2007 with Pittsburgh and again in 2010 with Colorado. He has a .203 career batting average in 276 at bats with 15 home runs, 34 RBI and 109 strikeouts.
Eldred’s promotion was just a matter of time after his play this season. The designated hitter leads the International League in just about every major category at the plate, including batting average (.350), runs (27), home runs (14), RBI (40), total bases (89), slugging (.890) and on-base plus slugging (1.295).
With those statistics, Eldred’s future in Toledo appeared to be in doubt after he was sent back to the minors. Since Eldred is out of minor league options, he needed to pass through waivers to return to the Mud Hens lineup. That gave each MLB team a chance to obtain his services, requiring that they pick up the remainder of his contract, which runs through the end of the year.
“It’s tough, you really don’t know what to expect,” Eldred said. “There’s got to be some sort of fit, injury or a team has to have a need. Plus it’s only a two- or three-day period and in that time frame no one was looking. It’s kind of a tough thing.
“At the same time, I really didn’t know I was going to be [in Detroit] either. You really can’t plan more than one game at a time. I know that’s one of those old sayings but that’s all you can really do because you don’t really know what to expect. You don’t know what plans they have for you so you just can’t look too far ahead because you might think one thing is the case but it’s really not.”
With no team claiming Eldred through waivers, Toledo will remain the benefactor of his hot hitting this season. Although head coach Phil Nevin expressed his disappointment, wishing to see his player remain in the majors, he is happy to see him back in a Mud Hens uniform.
“Once he’s in this uniform it makes us better without a doubt,” Nevin said. “Whenever a player comes back from the major leagues, is that good? You are disappointed for them. At the end of the day, when we get rolling and take the field the next day we are a better team [with Eldred], without a doubt.”
Although Eldred was disappointed he will not see any more major league action for the time being, he is also happy to be back in Toledo if he does have to play in the minors.
“If you are going to be in Triple-A, there’s not many other places, if any, that are as good as here — especially with the group of guys that we have,” Eldred said. “So far it’s been a lot of fun and we have a pretty solid team. I think it’s going to be exciting and it makes it more fun when you have a team that can put wins on the board with guys that go about their business the right way.”
With Eldred on board, Toledo is tied atop the IL with Indianapolis at 19-13. They also have a 6-2 record against defending two-time defending champion Columbus (17-15) in 2012.