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Monroe returns to Comerica Park

Monroe returns to Comerica Park

DETROIT -- Twins outfielder Craig Monroe looks at the situation in which Brandon Inge currently finds himself with the Tigers and sympathizes.

Because of the moves the Tigers made this offseason, Inge lost his starting job and was even a trade candidate before injuries riddled the team early this season. This, after Inge spent seven seasons with the Tigers, most of those when the team was at the bottom of the American League Central.

It's a similar situation to the one that Monroe went through with the Tigers last season. After going through a deep slump, one in which he hit just .201 over June and July, the Tigers traded him to the Cubs on Aug. 17. Chicago traded him to Minnesota in November.

The trade from Detroit to Chicago came as quite a shock for Monroe, who had spent parts of six seasons with the Tigers and had been a big part of leading the team to the World Series in 2006.

"I'm disappointed at times when I think about the situation and what happened," Monroe said. "I think as players we are forced that even when you are not on a good team, like in '03 losing 119 games, you are still motivated and coming in and preparing every day to play and do the best you possibly can for that team. So to do some of the things I've done for [the Tigers], I felt like I would have liked to have some of that [same support] back.

"I feel like a lot of the guys that came up together -- myself, Brandon, the deal he's getting now -- well, you find out that sometimes the game changes. And sometimes it's not always in your favor."

Monroe was back at Comerica Park on Monday for the first time since he was traded last August. It was a bittersweet moment for the outfielder, who took some time to visit with his former teammates, including Marcus Thames, in the Tigers' weight room before the game.

He also planned to seek out Detroit manager Jim Leyland, with whom he had a close relationship during Leyland's first season as the club's skipper, in 2006.

"I'd like to say hello to him, give him a hug," Monroe said. "I had a lot of fun that year playing with him. I respect a lot of the things he's done in the game, and more so just how we were. We were really tight. I think the decision and the things that happened [with me] were kind of out of his control.

"So I'm excited to see these guys and talk to them, but I'm also excited about the possibility of doing some damage and beating them, too."

Monroe was not in the lineup for the series opener between the two clubs, but manager Ron Gardenhire said that he expects to have Monroe in the DH spot for Tuesday's game, with left-hander Nate Robertson starting for Detroit.

It won't be the first time that Monroe has faced a former team. Before going to the Tigers in 2002, Monroe spent seven seasons in the Rangers organization, playing a total of 27 games in the Majors for Texas.

And he remembers very well how much he wanted to beat the Rangers the first time he faced them as well.

"That has to be your mind-set," he said. "It's just an inside thing. It's not verbal. But inside you want to get after them and kick their [tail] every time you get the chance."

Despite his struggles last season, Monroe has certainly delivered his share of big hits in Comerica Park. In addition to the four big home runs he hit there during the 2006 postseason, he has delivered 45 regular season home runs in the park.

His hope now is that he can add another one on Tuesday.

"That would be fun," he said with a smile. "That would be exciting."

Kelly Thesier 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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