Tag: Don Kelly

Detroit Tigers: Is Don Kelly Baseball’s Most Useful 25th Man?

He is the quintessential jack of all trades, master of none.

Getting rid of him would be like letting nine mediocre players walk away. But he’s open-minded; he’ll try anything once—and he has.

Don Kelly has done it all on the baseball diamond. He just hasn’t done it all that well.

Ah, but what would baseball be without the Don Kelly’s of the world?

Someone has to be the 25th man on a 25-man roster. Kelly has spent his entire big league career looking over his shoulder and seeing no one behind him.

It’s been a baseball life lived on the edge…of extinction.

Kelly, the Tigers designated sitter, has been hanging on to his big league job by a thread for so long that it defies physics.

The Tigers drafted him in the eighth round of the 2001 amateur draft. Little did they know, it would be like drafting a boomerang. Every time the Tigers tried to throw Don Kelly away, he kept flying back to them.

Kelly meandered his way through the Tigers farm system, like a rat in a maze, looking for the cheese. He started as a shortstop, but that soon proved to be as significant as saying a chameleon started green.

In the minors, Kelly switched from third base, then second, then first and finally back to third base again. He was threatening to rewrite Abbott and Costello’s act…all by himself.

He could hit a little, but he mainly earned praise because he didn’t strikeout too much. He could also wear more gloves than a room full of jewel thieves.

Kelly made his painstaking journey to AAA Toledo by 2005, one step from “the show.” He was 25-years-old, and usually, by that age, if a player hasn’t made it to the bigs yet, he is considered a never-will-be.

In 2006, at age 26, Kelly again showed up to spring training in Lakeland, gloves in hand. He almost made the Tigers but was sent back to Toledo, a victim of that cliché known as the numbers game.

That’s when the Tigers made their first of many attempts to get rid of Kelly.

They lopped him off the 40-man roster after the 2006 season. His hometown Pittsburgh Pirates, who never met a sad-sack they didn’t like, signed Kelly in December.

With the Pirates, Kelly finally found a big league roster he could crack out of in spring training. He made the team in 2007, managing 27 at-bats. He was a 27-year-old rookie, which is nothing more than being a 14-year-old second grader. After the season, the Pirates cut him.

The Arizona Diamondbacks picked him up, and Kelly played AAA ball for them for the entire 2008 season. Arizona then let him become a free agent.

The suckers they are, the Tigers took another shot on Kelly, signing him to a minor league contract in early 2009, which is nearly eight years after he was drafted.

Kelly didn’t make the team out of spring training, naturally.

But on June 11, 2009, the Tigers needed a replacement for outfielder Clete Thomas and summoned Kelly, who, by this time, had moved from the infield to the outfield.

Kelly’s first game for the Tigers came against the Pittsburgh Pirates, which is one of the three big league teams that had given up on him. In his second game as a Tiger, Kelly knocked in two runs with a single and double.

By this time, Kelly’s glove collection grew to include a first baseman’s and an outfielder’s, in addition to all his infield leather.

Kelly went to spring training in 2010 without a guaranteed job, as usual, but for his first time as a Tiger, Kelly broke camp with the big club. He was the 25th man—saved from the minors by his assortment of gloves.

His bat? Not such an attraction. But how many teams look for offense from their “utility” man?

Still, it’s a treat to watch the left-handed hitting Kelly in the batter’s box. He has a body that looks like a pair of lawn shears—all legs, which he draws further attention to by wearing his socks like knickers to his knees. His shoulders look like he stuffed two grapefruits under his jersey.

At 33, Kelly still looks like a kid. His cheeks are rosy, and he has a perpetual “aw, shucks” smirk on his face. He looks like he should work for a utility company instead of being a utility player for an MLB team.

Kelly was the model of consistency in 2010 and 2011, batting .245 and .244 respectively. Manager Jim Leyland used Kelly wherever he could—literally. In 2011, Kelly completed his clean sweep of the diamond by pitching and catching within two weeks of each other.

Kelly faced one batter in a game against the Mets, Jerry Hairston Jr., and retired him on five pitches, coaxing a fly ball with a curve ball—a curve ball!

You can have your Babe Ruth. Did the Babe have a career ERA of 0.00?

Less than two weeks later, Kelly came in to catch after Victor Martinez left with an injury and spent six innings behind the plate. Babe never did that, either.

In the 2011 ALDS, in the deciding Game 5 at Yankee Stadium, Kelly found himself in the starting lineup. No doubt he had someone pinch him as he read the lineup card taped to the wall before the game. Folks watching at home probably had a more violent reaction.

You see, as unassuming as Kelly is with all of his flexibility and his nice guy attitude, Tigers fans still have a tenuous relationship with him. They don’t seem to mind him being on the team, as long as he doesn’t play.

And to play in Game 5 of the ALDS against the Yankees? Heaven forbid!

Yet, there Kelly was—the human lawn shears standing in the box against Yankees pitcher Ivan Nova in the first inning. The Tigers had a chance to eliminate the Yankees in Game 4 in Detroit but failed. No one gave them a shot to KO the Yankees in the Bronx.

Kelly swung at a Nova pitch with his all arms, a less-than-textbook swing, and drove the baseball over the right field wall to give the Tigers a fragile but important 1-0 lead. The Tigers went on to win the game and the series.

Take that Don Kelly haters!

In 2012, Kelly lost what little luster he had. He slumped to a batting average below .200 for the season, which fanned the flames of the fans’ furor.

In early August, the Tigers tried to get rid of Kelly again. They designated him for assignment—a fancy way of saying, “Hit the bricks, kid.” As a result, Kelly was lopped off the 40-man roster. A week later, he cleared waivers—apparently no team wanted a nine-glove guy with a career BA of .235—and he was sent to AAA Toledo, rather than accept his release.

A month later, when the rosters expanded, Kelly was back. He was like one of those horror movie monsters that you think had been killed. Amazingly, Leyland put Kelly on the playoff roster and wouldn’t you know it…Kelly hit a walk-off sacrifice fly to win Game 2 of the ALDS. It was a script that even a B-movie producer would have shucked into the trash.

The Tigers still weren’t done trying to get rid of Kelly. After last season, they cut him again, and he cleared waivers…again. In January 2013, he re-signed with the Tigers…again. It was like the Yankees relationship with Billy Martin.

Kelly again went to spring training last February without a guarantee of a job, but he apparently likes it that way. Kelly played his way onto the 25-man squad that went north out of Florida.

Already this season, Kelly, in his usual duty, has come through with some clutch hitting and defense. He stole a home run in Comerica Park with a catch over the fence that rivaled anything Al Kaline ever did.

After that catch, the TV cameras caught Kelly. He had that “Aw, shucks” look on his face. As usual.

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Brandon Inge Should Be the Least of Detroit’s Worries Going into 2012

Everyone around the Detroit Tigers organization knew that the massive signing of first baseman Prince Fielder would create a shift in the way that the team plays baseball going into the 2012 season.

The biggest shift was thought to be the expected move of Miguel Cabrera from first base to third base, and how the slugger would react to such a move.

Cabrera didn’t mind the move at all, according to manager Jim Leyland. At that point, everything involving controversy should have ended.

But it didn’t. Enter underachieving third baseman Brandon Inge.

Now, Inge has had a great career as a Tiger. For many years he was considered one of the best defensive third baseman in the game. However, as time has gone by and injuries have accrued, Inge has found himself as a solid, yet not spectacular, defender.

Then there’s his 2011 campaign. Inge had a .197 average, and for most of the season he wasn’t even living up to that standard. While he had a few good games after coming back from his demotion to Triple-A Toledo, he spent a lot of the season splitting time with Wilson Betemit and Don Kelly.

This needs to be prefaced by saying that if Inge were getting cast away to the bench in favor of someone like, say, Don Kelly, there would be some room to be upset.

That being said, Inge has no room to complain after his 2011 season. He’s being replaced by Miguel Cabrera, who is arguably the best hitter on this team even with the acquisition of Prince Fielder. The fact that Leyland had to address Inge at all during Fielder’s press conference–the manager said that Inge was not a happy camper–is simply ridiculous.

The city of Detroit, for the most part, identifies with Inge. He’s always been considered a blue-collar player; that is, a grind-it-out kind of guy that puts on his hard hat and goes to work.

However, as of late, it seems as though he spends quite a bit of time complaining about his situation rather than actually playing baseball at a high level. This is a player with a superstar mentality and a bench player’s stat line.

It’s understandable that Leyland was merely addressing a question asked of him by the media when referencing Brandon Inge, but the fact is that until Inge starts playing at the level of Miguel Cabrera or Prince Fielder–something that he’ll likely never do–no one should care how Brandon feels about being on the bench. Is that harsh? Maybe, but that’s the way it has to be if you want a successful baseball team.

Will all of that being said, there’s still a place for Brandon Inge on this team, if he can accept the role. Since Leyland loves his “lazy Sunday” lineup, which includes a lot of role players, Inge could see a bit of playing time still.

All in all, this shouldn’t be a huge distraction going into the season. But if Inge wants to keep his fan base, he should probably let this go and just play baseball.

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Detroit Tigers: The Tigers Are Doomed Now That Brandon Inge Is Back

Apparently the Detroit Tigers think it is a good idea to send down an impressive part-time player in his rookie season and call up a career .234 hitter to replace him. I awoke this morning and to my horror found out the Tigers had sent Andy Dirks to the Toledo Mud-Hens only to call up Brandon Inge.

Before Inge was sent down earlier this year, he was hitting .177 in 70 games played. Meanwhile in 61 games played Andy Dirks has hit .257.  The Tigers management must not be able to do simple baseball mathematics. .257 is eighty points higher than .177 for all you stat geeks out there.

Wilson Betemit was traded to the Tigers to replace Inge. Since then Betemit has hit an even .300. In fact Betemit has two home runs in 19 games; in fifty-seven games with the Royals he hit three home runs. He has also come through in clutch situations, providing a much-needed bat in the lineup.

Meanwhile Inge would have struck out in these situations. I’m not bashing Inge by any means, I’m just stating the obvious. It should also be noted that Wilson Betemit makes an even $1 million and Brandon Inge is making $5.5 million for the 2011 and 2012 seasons.

Don Kelly has been the Tigers’ secret weapon over the past couple years. He has played every position (even pitcher) for the Tigers. He has been splitting time with Betemit at third since Inge’s departure.  When Kelly hasn’t been manning third base, he’s found himself being used as a defensive replacement or playing in the outfield. Overall Kelly has carved an excellent niche for himself and has done what has been expected of him.

The Tigers are doomed if Inge is going to be playing every day again. Wilson Betemit and Andy Dirks provided consistent bats for the Tigers this year. Unfortunately Dirks will now be toiling around in the minors until September and Betemit will be used as a pinch-hitter. Instead of seeing Betemit coming through with clutch hits, Tigers fans will be forced to watch Brandon Inge strikeout with two on and two out.       

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Don Kelly: A Detroit Tiger Disaster

Living way out here in Connecticut, I know that my finger is not on the pulse of what Tiger fans are thinking as much as it was when I lived in Michigan.  However, I feel pretty confident that I am not the only one out there that thinks Don Kelly is a complete and total disaster. 

Why is this guy even on the club?

Let’s take a look at his 2010 season so far and see if we can find any justification for keeping this bag of bones around.  First, I’ll list the positives AND the reasons in which he may be on the roster to begin with—

  1. He can play around the diamond a little bit.  He can play the outfield and the infield and I suppose that is valuable.
  2. He is white.  People in Michigan love white people.
  3. Jim Leyland is head-over-heels in love with Don Kelly.

Now a few reasons not to play Don Kelly.  All factual—

  1. The Tigers are out of the chase and he is 30 years old.  As someone who will be 30 in less than a year, I feel for the guy.  30 is not old in the real world, but when you’re a shitty baseball player taking up space on a big league roster, you are ancient.
  2. His OPS+ this season is 35.  35!!!  I am certain there are pitchers with bigger bats.  In fact, of all players in baseball with at least 150 plate appearances this season, only two players in all of baseball have a lower OPS+ than poor Don Kelly.  Garrett Anderson and Brandon Wood are the two poor saps.
  3. Kelly possesses the power of a butterfly.  He has gone deep twice this season and is currently slugging a pitiful .279.  That mark is “bested” only by Wood and Luis Valbuena.
  4. He is taking up a roster spot.

That final point there is what grinds my gears the most.  The Tigers are now out of contention.  Time to cut Kelly loose.  The Tigers are not exactly stocked in the minors, but they may as well give some playing time to a guy in the minors and see what they have.  We all KNOW what they have in Don Kelly.

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Detroit Tigers Send Sizemore, Scherzer To Minors

After an almost five hour marathon victory, Detroit Tigers’ general manager David Dombrowski announced a few roster moves late Saturday night.

Second baseman Scott Sizemore was sent to Toledo of the International League. Through 30 starts this season Sizemore was hitting a mere .206 with one homerun, and 6 errors in the field. 

Manager Jim Leyland had shown a preference to pinch hit for him in crucial game situations, as well as replacing him defensively in other situations.

His demotion undoubtedly surprises very few, as his struggles at the plate have been readily apparent. This was the prime reason Dombrowski cited for making the move, adding that Sizemore needs to slow the game down.

In Sizemore’s place, the contract of infielder Danny Worth was purchased from the Mud Hens. Worth is a right handed hitting second baseman, drafted in 2008 out of Pepperdine. 

This season at Toledo he was hitting .274 with 14RBIs and 10 stolen bases. He figures to enter a timeshare with Ramon Santiago and Don Kelly for playing time.

However, current speculation is that his promotion is only temporary until Carlos Guillen is ready to return from the disabled list. Guillen was seen yesterday working out at second base. Moving Guillen to second would allow the Tigers to keep the potent bat of Brennan Boesch in the everyday lineup.

Announced alongside this move was the demotion of SP Max Scherzer to Toledo. In his place SP Armando Galarraga was recalled, and will start Sunday’s rubber match against the Boston Red Sox.

Galarraga has made seven starts in Toledo, going 4-2 with a 3.92 ERA and a 38/13 K/BB ratio in 41.1 innings pitched. He should get at least three starts with the Tigers, since Scherzer cannot be recalled until 10 days after being sent down.

Scherzer has struggled in eight starts this year with the Tigers, allowing 34 earned runs in 42 innings. 

In the cases of both Sizemore and Scherzer, Dombrowski noted the need for them to work on their respective game and to regain form and confidence. 

Expect Scherzer’s demotion to be only temporary. If Guillen returns and can stay healthy, however, Sizemore may have a long summer ahead of him in Toledo.

As ever, The Hammer Toss  will keep you informed as more news or speculation becomes available.

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