Results tagged ‘ Don Kelly ’
I didn’t go to Washington, but apparently the weather wasn’t very good, because they didn’t wait long to postpone Saturday’s exhibition between the Tigers and Nationals. Essentially, the Tigers got an overnight stay in D.C. before returning home Saturday evening.
Only a couple players will really be affected by it. The first is scheduled starter Anibal Sanchez, who was scheduled to throw around 85 pitches to get ready for his regular-season assignment Thursday against KC. Instead, Sanchez will now throw a shorter session against Tigers hitters along with Rick Porcello as part of Sunday’s voluntary workouts (no, it’s not voluntary for the hitters scheduled to face them, I’m told).
The other player affected is Don Kelly, who was supposed to get some field work in Saturday’s game. He returned to game action Friday in Lakeland, but it was a minor-league camp game, and he was the designated hitter for both teams in the contest. I’m not sure whether that will help set Brad Ausmus’ decision on who starts in left field for Opening Day. He said Friday he still hadn’t decided.
The one question for the Tigers at Monday’s nontender deadline has been answered. Utilityman Don Kelly agreed to terms with the Tigers on a one-year, $1 million contract, thus taking him off the potential nontender list.
Kelly confirmed the deal in a text to inquiring reporters. The Tigers announced the deal shortly thereafter.
The $1 million salary represents the first seven-figure deal for Kelly. He made $900,000 in each of the past two seasons, including this past season on what was initially a minor-league contract with a Spring Training invite he signed just before camp after being taken off the 40-man roster. He essentially had to win his roster spot back, and he beat out Quintin Berry to do it.
As the Tigers headed towards Monday’s deadline for tendering contracts to arbitration eligible players, the question was whether they’d try to do the same thing this winter. The team traditionally waits until January to wrap up deals with arbitration-eligible players, but their one-year deal with Phil Coke a week and a half ago noted a change in approach. With some players, they wanted a deal in place before approaching the offseason. Kelly fell in that category, though his salary is by far the smallest of the eight arbitration-eligible Tigers.
Kelly’s versatility is well-known, and he currently stands as a left-handed hitter on the bench of a team that has a righty-heavy lineup at the moment in the wake of the Prince Fielder trade. The one factor that could change his role is the positional shuffle around the Tigers infield and outfield, notably if fellow left-handed hitter Andy Dirks becomes the primary reserve outfielder.
The roster picture, especially in left field and third base, remains a big question, but the Tigers can keep Kelly on the roster and then take a wait-and-see approach in Spring Training. If Detroit decides he’s no longer a fit, he can be released by March 15 or thereabouts for one-sixth of his salary, or just under $167,000. If the Tigers release him at the end of camp, they would owe him $250,000, one-fourth of his salary. Remember, Detroit took a similar approach with Brennan Boesch a year ago.
In all the hubbub over Max Scherzer’s 13-0 start and Colby Rasmus’ slide on Omar Infante, this kind of got overlooked. Now that everyone has calmed down, I’m giving you a heads-up now: Miguel Cabrera won’t start tonight.
Jim Leyland made the announcement after the game Wednesday night, after he subbed him out in the ninth inning for the second consecutive game with tightness in his back.
“I think it probably tightened up on him,” Leyland said. “Like I said, I don’t know how it happens like it does, but it does seem to happen. We’ve been on turf now for six straight days. Guys aren’t used to that. I think there’s probably something to that. You’re on the dirt, and then on the turf, and you’re running the bases on the dirt and then you hit the turf. I don’t really have an answer for it other than the back’s bothering him and I’m not going to play him tomorrow.”
Cabrera didn’t say a whole lot after the game. He suggested his back felt OK, but that’s not really a surprise from him.
Cabrera has missed one game in each of the last two seasons. He last sat out a game last Aug. 26 against the Angels, a game the Tigers actually won, 5-2, when Max Scherzer outpitched Ervin Santana. Jeff Baker started at third that day.
The Tigers won the one game Cabrera missed in 2011, too. That day, he was on paternity leave to be with his wife for the birth of their child, and the Tigers called up Omir Santos to give Alex Avila a much-needed day off. Doug Fister pitched well and the Tigers won a getaway game at Tampa Bay.
Cabrera was also out of the starting lineup in two other games in 2011, but ended up making a pinch-hit appearance.
Don Kelly will start at third base tonight. The only other guy on the Tigers bench who can play third is Ramon Santiago, and he’ll be starting for the injured Infante.
The Seattle Mariners finalized their Opening Day roster on Sunday by keeping Jason Bay as their extra outfielder and designating Casper Wells for assignment. The Tigers were rumored to have interest in trading for Wells over the final days of Spring Training before naming Matt Tuiasosopo as their right-handed hitting outfielder of choice to share starts in left field.
So now that Wells is out there for the taking, would the Tigers add him now? If it’s going to happen, they’re probably going to have to give something up before he hits the waiver wire. They probably had a better chance of working out a trade for him last week if they wanted him badly enough.
Players who are designated for assignment hit the trade market. If they aren’t traded in the first few days, they eventually the waiver wire, which at the start of the season run in reverse order of last season’s standings. So the Twins, Indians, Red Sox, Royals and White Sox will all have their chance to claim him before the Tigers’ waiver spot comes up. In other words, all of the Tigers’ competitors in the AL Central will have their chance, plus the Red Sox. Most of those teams already have their outfield mix set. That doesn’t mean they wouldn’t make a claim to keep a division/playoff favorite from addressing a position of need.
The Tigers have a decision to make. They like Tuiasosopo in part for his versatility, which includes the ability to play the corner infield spots as well as second base in a pinch. However, they have Don Kelly capable of doing the same thing. Wells, meanwhile, brings center-field capability, which they have in Kelly but only limited experience in Tuiasosopo. Wells is a stronger defender, not that the Tigers really need to worry about defensive substitutions in the outfield at this point). He did not hit particularly well in Seattle over the last year and a half, but he firmly established himself as a lefty killer, with a .267 average, .891 OPS and nearly half of his 35 hits for extra bases off southpaws.
Could it happen? Again, if it does, it’ll probably have to be trade a trade.
The much-chronicled (my bad, guys) opt-out clause in Don Kelly’s minor-league contract will not be exercised. It could’ve come into play today and forced the Tigers into a decision, but Kelly said after Tuesday’s 4-for-4 performance that he will not use it.
Instead, he said he has an informal agreement with the Tigers front office. If Kelly doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski will try to find Kelly another team with a big-league job for him. If not, Kelly will accept an assignment to Triple-A Toledo.
Why not test the open market? One reason Kelly cited was the familiarity with the organization. Another was the situation in Toledo, both the facilities and the proximity to his home just outside Pittsburgh.
By this point, the contract issue was a little much for Kelly.
“This is all contractual stuff,” he said. “I’m just trying to go out and get hits.”
The note was so minute when Don Kelly signed his minor-league contract with a camp invite, it might have gotten overlooked. Indeed, Kelly came back to his old club to compete for his old job, but he also made sure to get an opt-out clause that would allow him to ask for his release if he doesn’t make the team at the end of camp, just in case there was another opportunity out there for him.
There wasn’t much made of it at the time because you had to consider what the chances were of a positional roster spot coming down to the final days of camp, especially with Kelly. It’s looking like a real chance now, and as the Tigers contemplate how they’re going to shape their Opening Day roster, Kelly’s opt-out clause and Quintin Berry’s lingering knee soreness might get some decisions made on the positional side before the final few games of camp.
Kelly’s opt-out means the Tigers have to let him know of their plans for him next week ahead of the end of camp, if he’s indeed going to be added to the 25-man roster or if they want him to consider a minor league assignment. That way, Kelly can check the landscape and decide whether to opt out with enough time to have a chance to land with another team before Opening Day rosters have to be set. Essentially, that means the Tigers also have to make a decision or two on guys with whom Kelly is competing for a spot on the bench — such as Berry. They’re both left-handed hitters competing for the roster spot not taken up by the right-handed hitting outfielder Jim Leyland wants to carry. Another player in that category could be utility infielder Danny Worth.
Berry left Sunday’s game and missed Monday’s trip with a recurrence of the patellar tendintis that sidelined him for two weeks earlier in camp before he returned to game action about a week ago. If that injury lingers a few days, it’s going to be very difficult to determine with much confidence by early next week whether Berry’s ready to go for the start of the season. Berry, for what it’s worth, has minor-league options left.
Kelly already seems like he has an inside track for a roster spot before the opt-out leverage. The Tigers could keep both Rule 5 pick Jeff Kobernus and utilityman Matt Tuiasosopo, but they both bat right-handed, which would leave switch-hitting infielder Ramon Santiago and switch-hitting backup catcher Brayan Pena as the only left-handed bats available off the bench. And Leyland isn’t going to pinch-hit with Pena unless he’s coming in to catch, because Leyland dreads being caught having to move Victor Martinez behind the plate and sacrifice his designated hitter if somebody gets injured (yes, Kelly could fill that emergency catcher role, too).
In any case, Kelly finds himself in pretty good position for somebody who came to camp looking like a longer shot to make the team. If camp broke today, he’d have a pretty good shot to make the team. The Tigers don’t have to decide that today, or tomorrow, or this week, but they still have to decide his fate a little sooner than normal.
Other notes from Monday’s win over the Nationals:
- A tweet from somebody Monday afternoon made a very good point: Those who cried panic at closer for the Tigers after three outings from Bruce Rondon and asked whether Detroit could make a move in time for the trip to Port St. Lucie the following week can’t easily dismiss what he has done since. In five outings since pitching coach Jeff Jones’ side session with Rondon to look over his mechanics, Rondon has five scoreless innings on four hits with two walks and nine strikeouts. He didn’t chew up the middle of the Nationals order Monday, but the fact that he maneuvered through it without solid contact from Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman or Adam LaRoche, and with strikeouts for his last two outs, is a pretty significant addition to his body of work this spring. I’m not going to say just yet that he’s going to get the full-time closer’s job out of camp, but if you’re saying he’s not ready for the big leagues at all, your argument is become more detached from the actual pitching.
- Somebody in the comments section on the notebook on the site today hung onto Leyland’s remark that a versatile long reliever is worth his weight in gold, and asked if that was literally possible. That got me thinking about Joaquin Benoit, currently Detroit’s highest-paid reliever at $5.5 million this year. Take his listed weight of 220 pounds and factor in the price of gold at around $1600 per ounce after today’s economic news out of Europe, and Benoit’s weight in gold would be worth $5,632,000. That is amazingly close. And no, I won’t calculate Rondon’s weight in gold.
- The sight of Prince Fielder in an all-out dive through the air to try to tag Jayson Werth before he could scramble back to first base has to terrify some baseball people in spring training. It’s still a tremendous hustle play from one of the highest-paid players in the game.
- The Tigers are on Fox Sports Detroit on Tuesday, but Leyland said he’ll watch his regulars’ innings for that game heading into the off-day. The next FSD broadcast Thursday night, after the off-day Wednesday, is when you’ll see the regulars start playing full games.
That didn’t take long. A day after Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said the club would remove Kelly from the 40-man roster, the team announced the move was complete. After being designated for assignment and clearing waivers, Kelly declined his minor-league assignment and immediately became a free agent, free to sign with any club he chooses.
That’s what Dombrowski expected. He said Tuesday they’d like to bring Kelly back on a minor-league deal with a Spring Training invite, but he expects Kelly to look for a better opportunity.
“We would have interest in signing him to a minor league contract and bringing him to camp to compete for a job,” Dombrowski said. “He knows how well thought of he is here. But I also know that other people are in a position where somebody may offer him a better opportunity. That’s what guys look for when they’re free agents.”
Kelly’s versatility gives him instant value to any club, especially in the National League or clubs that opt for an extra reliever and carry a shorter bench. Whether it’s enough to land him a Major League contract somewhere is the next question.
After back-to-back solid seasons in Detroit, Kelly became the forgotten man on the Tigers roster, batting .186 (21-for-113) with four extra-base hits and seven RBIs. He was designated for assignment in August, accepted a minor-league assignment, came back in September and became a playoff hero with his game-winning sacrifice fly to beat the A’s in Game 2 of the AL Division Series.
Keep in mind, Kelly was supposedly poised to compete for playing time with Brandon Inge at third base last Spring Training until the Tigers signed Prince Fielder and moved Miguel Cabrera to third base. That was one factor that marginalized him on Detroit’s roster. Another was Quintin Berry’s impact, putting another left-handed hitting outfielder on the roster. Most of Kelly’s playing time over the summer was late-inning defensive spots — 127 plate appearances over 75 games reflect that — so he rarely got more than an at-bat in a game. In fact, just 29 of his games featured multiple plate appearances.
There are few things faster in baseball these days than a Bruce Rondon fastball. It has been clocked as high as 102 mph, including during the Futures Game in July at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium.
The only thing faster in the Tigers organization than Rondon’s fastball might be the track he’s on.
Dave Dombrowski’s end-of-season remarks are an annual tradition now, painting the roadmap for the Tigers offseason, both for what they might look to do and what their plans are with pending players. It also seems there’s usually a prospect or two that gets some lift out of it.
Three years ago, it was Scott Sizemore. Last year, Drew Smyly got a mention. Today might well go down as the day Dombrowski set the path for Rondon.
Everybody figured him to be a closer of the future with these guys. Tuesday was the day we found just how near that future might be.
“I would not discount Bruce Rondon in the competition for our closer role for next year,” Dombrowski said. “I’m not saying he’s going to be our closer, but I do not discount him in that role.
“He is a guy that throws — and people don’t sometimes believe this, but it is true — he averages 100 miles an hour and topped off at 103, and throws his breaking stuff for consistent strikes.”
Dombrowski confirmed what others had speculated, that Rondon was a serious consideration for a call-up leading into September this year, which would’ve made him eligible for the postseason roster. Had they known that Valverde was going to struggle the way they did, they would’ve done it, which would’ve put a whole different look on Detroit’s closer by committee.
“This guy is a special potential closer with the makeup of a closer,” Dombrowski continued, “and normally you’re not going to thrust that in a young guy’s hands and say automatically, ‘It’s your job.’ But it would not surprise me if he earned that job. With the number of good arms that are out there, there are not many arms like this, and he cherishes that type of role.”
Dombrowski wasn’t the only one touting Rondon. When Leyland was asked about the difference between going with a closer by committee in a postseason and doing that for a full season, he hesitated.
“I’ve handled those situations before, but who’s to say we won’t have a closer,” Leyland countered. “I think we will have a closer. I think it might be a surprise closer, but I think we might have one. And I’m not talking about Phil Coke, by the way. Not that I don’t like Phil Coke.”
Someone then mentioned Rondon.
“Rondon’s a good name. Here’s a kid, who knows? Believe me, I’m not putting my blessing on Rondon as a closer for next year, but I’m just mentioning that name as a possibility. When you’ve got an arm like that, that’s a possibility. Now, could he handle it mentally, could he handle it in a three-tier stadium with the bright lights? I don’t have a clue.”
It’s an interesting contrast. The last Tigers reliever who threw as hard as Bruce Rondon does was Joel Zumaya, who crashed the roster to become a force in a setup relief role in 2006. At no point did Zumaya ever earn the closer’s job, partly because of injuries but not entirely.
The last rookie to have any sort of closing job in Detroit was Franklyn German, who shared the job in 2003. However, a closer’s role on a 43-119 team isn’t exactly like a regular job. German shared the team lead in saves — with five.
If you count Fernando Rodney’s time down the stretch in 2005, the Tigers have had experienced closers in the role every year since 2006.
“You see [Aroldis] Chapman close and there’s been other young guys close for clubs,” Dombrowski said. “I know it hasn’t been our normal situation. People know how good an arm Zumaya had, this guy has every bit and it comes out easier with less effort in his delivery.”
Dombrowski is aware of their track record. He’s also well-aware he has a team that’s expected to win next year, a team that opened as a World Series favorite this week.
“I think you also have to be open-minded and flexible,” Dombrowski said. “It’s just like a couple years ago when in 2006, Verlander and Zumaya jumped up pretty good for us at that point. This guy [Rondon] is a talented guy. He’s a rare talent. You would not believe the number of clubs that called me about Bruce Rondon to trade him. If I had a choice of any young closer in baseball to give an opportunity to in any organization, it would be him. Now would be ready? I don’t know that. But he is that good.”
Here’s a roundup of the other remarks he had:
- Dombrowski was on the fence on whether Dirks has a full-time starting role for next year: “Dirks is a good player. Is he an every-day player at this point? I don’t know. He might be. I know he’s a real good player. Can he combine with somebody? So I think we’ll just kind of look at that.”
- Dombrowski poo-poohed the idea that they could non-tender Brennan Boesch. “We’ll tender him a contract,” Dombrowski said. “He’s not where we would like him to be at this point, because if we did he’d have been on our roster for the postseason, so that’s a pretty obvious summation. But I think it’s the case that he still has ability, he can still hit the ball out of the ballpark. We still see some untapped potential, and he has struggled some.”
- When asked what went wrong in the World Series, Dombrowski cited the offense, and pointed to an article that said they went 1-for-17 when putting pitches in play that were over the middle of the plate (not sure which article, otherwise I’d provide a link). “They pitched well,” Dombrowski said, “but we also didn’t hit the pitches we could handle. Why didn’t they do that? Was the timing a little bit off? Maybe. Did they keep off timing with the layover, did they keep them off-balance with the stuff that they threw, changing speeds? I’m sure that, too. Did they start pressing a little bit, try to do too much? Maybe a combination of all that. But it’s almost hard to believe when you say they went 1-for-17 on balls down the middle of the plate.”
- Quintin Berry will go into camp with a chance to compete for a spot on the roster. Coincidentally, Leyland said that with Victor Martinez back, they’ll have a use for a pinch-runner on their bench.
- The Tigers will designate Don Kelly for assignment later on this week, Dombrowski said, to open a spot on the 40-man roster. From there, clubs will have a chance to claim him, just as they did when the Tigers designated him in August. If he isn’t claimed, however, the Tigers would like to bring him back on a minor-league contract to compete for a roster spot. “He knows how well thought of he is here,” Dombrowski said. “But I also know that other people are in a position where somebody may offer him a better opportunity. That’s what guys look for when they’re free agents.”
- No comment on the status of Ryan Raburn, because Dombrowski hasn’t had a chance to talk with him yet. They still have him under team control for a year, so technically they don’t have to do anything if they want to keep him. If they want to use his roster spot for someone else, well, that’s another matter, and one they would probably want to talk with him about.
- Dombrowski did not want to get into the possibility of contract talks with Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, both two years away from free agency. That’s a matter he still has to discuss with ownership. However, he said they’d like to have both for a long time.
- Avisail Garcia, Dombrowski said, is a “tough call” on whether he makes the roster next year. “He has star potential,” Dombrowski said. “He’s a five-tool player. I’m not sure that he’s ready as a corner outfielder to give us the contributions that we need on an overall basis at this time, but I’m not sure that he’s not. He is going to play everyday in winter ball for Magglio’s team in Venezuela. I think he’s a guy that we’ll keep a real close eye on in how he develops over the wintertime.”
- If the Tigers can’t re-sign Sanchez, Dombrowski didn’t sound particularly strong about getting another starter to fill his spot, saying it would have to be a substantial improvement over what they have.
- Smyly would not be viewed as a full-time reliever.
- Dombrowski is not concerned about Scherzer going into the offseason. “What happened,” Dombrowski said, “was [his shoulder] got tired like a lot of your muscles get tired, and it’s just more a mater of it needing some rest and then building it back up. So he got some rest and built it back up, but at that time period you don’t have a chance to go out there every five days and build it up. So the feeling is with Scherzer that he’ll be absolutely fine.”
- A second lefty reliever isn’t a high priority for the Tigers to acquire this winter. Dombrowski believes they can fill the spot in-house, though he didn’t rule out adding an arm.
Jim Leyland has talked on and off for most of the summer about trying to get Prince Fielder a day at designated hitter (he hasn’t missed a game since Sept. 14, 2010, and he always says he’s fine to play first base). Leyland was already thinking about it before Fielder took hit-by-pitches in each of the last two games. He’s doing it tonight.
Why now, especially with an off-day coming Thursday? Part of Leyland’s reason was Delmon Young’s struggles against Indians sinkerballer Justin Masterson, despite the way Young has been swinging the past week. He’s 3-for-20 with five strikeouts off Masterson, including 1-for-9 with three strikeouts and three groundouts since the start of last season. Since Masterson is giving up a .291 average and .831 OPS to lefties this year, Young isn’t going to displace either of the corner outfielders.
It’ll be the second game at DH this season for Fielder. The other one was April 22 against Texas, and Don Kelly started at first base in that one, too. Kelly went 0-for-3, Fielder went 1-for-5, and Colby Lewis outpitched Drew Smyly in a 3-2 Texas win.
- Austin Jackson, CF
- Andy Dirks, LF
- Miguel Cabrera, 3B
- Prince Fielder, DH
- Brennan Boesch, RF
- Don Kelly, 1B
- Jhonny Peralta, SS
- Alex Avila, C
- Omar Infante, 2B
P: Rick Porcello
- Shin-Soo Choo, RF
- Jason Kipnis, 2B
- Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
- Carlos Santana, DH
- Michael Brantley, CF
- Russ Canzler, LF
- Casey Kotchman, 1B
- Jack Hannahan, 3B
- Lou Marson, C
P: Justin Masterson
Though the Tigers offense broke out of its funk a little bit in Tuesday’s 7-4 loss, it didn’t come from Austin Jackson, who went 0-for-4 with a walk. He didn’t strike out, and he made contact in two-strike counts, but he fell to 2-for-21 for the homestand and 2-for-29 over the last eight days.
He has played every inning of every game so far this season, but manager Jim Leyland said after Tuesday’s game that he might give Jackson the game off Wednesday and start Don Kelly in center for a game.
Kelly started at third and first base over the weekend, and in left field last Thursday. He has been a late-inning substitute in right field four times. He hasn’t started in center field since last May 5, but with Andy Dirks coming off a left hamstring injury, he’s the best option for a spot start the Tigers have.
For what it’s worth, Jackson is 3-for-10 with a double for his career off M’s starter Felix Hernandez. Kelly is 0-for-3 against him.