Yesterday, Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus decided to give Don Kelly, the Tigers’ 34-year-old utility man, his very first start on the young season. Kelly, who started at third base, made the most of the opportunity by going 3-for-4 with a triple, an RBI, and two runs scored.
Kelly, who is now in his sixth season with the Tigers, has never been able to overwhelm Tigers fans with his bat. He has a lifetime average of just .234 in the Old English D, and many believed that he was all but done after a dismal 2012 campaign where he batted a mere .186. However, Kelly was able to win his job back in Spring Training of 2013, and he even went on to play well enough for the Tigers to invite him back for the 2014 season on a one-year contract worth $1 million. If he continues to play like he did yesterday, he is certainly going to make the Tigers very happy that they did not send him packing.
Kelly’s versatility is a big part of the reason why he has successfully been able to carve out a niche career in the MLB, but it appears that his offensive game may finally be clicking after all of these years. Kelly batted .316 through 38 at-bats this spring, and although Spring Training numbers can indeed be deceiving, it appears that Kelly has carried his hot bat into the regular season now as well.
Even if Kelly does regress to being the hitter who Tigers fans have grown accustomed to seeing, which is very possible, his versatility is still going to be a priceless asset for the Tigers in 2014, just as it has been in previous years.
Kelly has played all nine positions at one point or another in his career, and every team wishes that they had a player such as him on their 25-man roster who can fill most any hole when one suddenly needs to be filled. He is the perfect deep bench player and a manager’s dream.
It was certainly not a secret that former Tigers manager Jim Leyland was a big fan of Kelly, and it appears that he may be on his way towards becoming a favorite of Ausmus’ as well. Look for Kelly to play a key role in the Tigers’ 2014 success by playing solid defense wherever Ausmus decides to put him, and coming up with the occasional clutch hit when the team really needs one.