Results tagged ‘ Don Kelly ’

Game 18: What’s next for Tigers at third base

Jim Leyland’s answer to the question of how he’ll handle third base while Miguel Cabrera is out lasted five words.

“I’ve got plenty of coverage,” he said Tuesday morning.

That he does. Between Danny Worth, Don Kelly, Audy Ciriaco and yes, Brandon Inge, Leyland has no shortage of guys who can play over there this spring. Who he plays will likely say a lot about how long the Tigers expect Cabrera to be out.

Inge has had a ton of playing time at second base this season to try to get him acclimated, with surprisingly good results. The Tigers and Leyland have made it abundantly clear that Cabrera is the third baseman now, a message that has grown stronger as Spring Training has unfolded and Cabrera has more than held his own at the hot corner. It would seem unlikely the Tigers will move Inge back to third unless they have to — in other words, if they have a reason to believe that Cabrera would miss time at the start of the season.

If they had to make an adjustment on the fly, they could get Inge ready at third with very little lead-in time. As Leyland said early this spring, Inge could play third in his sleep. So the idea of Inge needing time as an insurance policy doesn’t really hold in this situation.

So while Cabrera is out, the biggest impact could be on Kelly, getting more time at third to fill Grapefruit League innings and more at-bats to get himself ready, as well as Worth, who has been trying to make his case as an extra infielder for some time now. It also could keep Ciriaco in camp a little longer, continuing what has been a decent spring for him.

What we learned: While Ryan Raburn and Delmon Young have been belting balls all spring, the common refrain has been that they’ve been feasting on early spring pitching, when hurlers are usually focusing on their fastballs and rarely mixing in their good secondary pitches. Raburn’s sixth home run of the spring came on a breaking ball from Jair Jurrjens, whose rough spring continued. Young’s ball came on a pitch with more velocity on it.

Either way, their hitting is starting to outgrow the early spring training phrase.

“I don’t know how to explain it. It just seems like Delmon and Raburn get a good pitch to hit, they hit it pretty hard and a lot of times pretty far,” Leyland said. “But I don’t really know how to explain it.”

Hey, it’s only spring training: Justin Verlander said Tuesday was his first real jam in which he had the situation to try to gear up his fastball. He got it up to 96 mph on the radar gun at Joker Marchant Stadium, maybe another tick on other scouting guns.

“The velocity was getting up there, and that’s the first time it’s done that,” Verlander said. “A little harder to control for me, but the more I do it, the better it’ll get.”

At some point, that fastball will gear up to the upper 90s. It’s not there yet, but that’s not something he’s trying to get there at this point in the spring.

The highlight play you saw: Not really a highlight, but you saw a lot of the Lakeland grounds crew working on the mound. Both Verlander and Jurrjens pointed around their landing spots on the front of the dirt.

“It caused a little bit of issues,” Verlander said. “I felt like that might have led to some of the walks. A couple walks, I was slipping a little bit. Obviously, it was a bit more of a problem for Jair than it was for myself.”

At one point between innings, they were both around the mound looking at the trouble spot.

“I was telling him he was doing it, and he was telling me I was doing it, creating that big old hole,” Verlander said. “But I don’t create much of a hole when I pitch, if any of a hole. That’s what I was telling him. … It was weird, because I think them fixing it might have caused more a problem for him, because then his original hole wasn’t there anymore. That’s when he started slipping, I think.”

Up next: With the Tigers scheduled for their lone off-day of the spring on Thursday, they juggled their rotation a bit for Wednesday. Andy Oliver moves up a day to make the start against the Twins at 1:05pm at Marchant Stadium, putting him in a pretty good test that also happens to be the first broadcast of the spring for Fox Sports Detroit. Rick Porcello will pitch in a minor-league game earlier.

To-do list for Wednesday: Stretch out Oliver and get a look at how Twins hitters react to him the second and, maybe in a couple cases, third time into the order. He probably won’t get deep into a third turn, not with a pitch limit around 75 or so, but guys will get a chance to adjust from their first at-bats.

Tigers’ reactions to Prince Fielder signing

Justin Verlander told his followers on Twitter he was playing a bad round of golf when he got the call on Prince Fielder. His game didn’t get much better, but his day did.

“The Prince news turned my day around! Still played bad, but who cares,” Verlander tweeted. “Really excited about 2012, especially with the new addition.”

He wasn’t the only Tiger looking at the 2012 season with a little brighter outlook, once the sense of shock over Fielder’s signing tapered off.

“I had just got done working out, hitting, and a few of my friends texted me,” superutilityman Don Kelly said. “I seriously thought they were joking. I got online and checked it out and it was all over MLB.com and whatever.”

Austin Jackson, who’s now set to be leading off for a more formidable Tigers lineup, had the same reaction when his phone started going off while he was sitting at home. Shock gave way to mere amazement, then gave way to the thought of a lineup with two of the most formidable all-around hitters in baseball.

“It’s crazy to think about him and Cabrera hitting next to each other in the lineup,” Jackson said. ‘You do those type of things on MLB2K or something. You never really see two hitters like that get a chance to hit on the same team.

“It’s going to be a very interesting season. I think everybody’s pumped up to get going.”

The news that the Tigers had signed Fielder to a nine-year, $214 million contract sent shock waves around baseball, but it sent excitement around Detroit. Tigers players were no different. Some likely realized it was a possibility, but most didn’t know at all.

“No,” Kelly said. “I mean, everybody was under the impression that it wasn’t a real good fit from what Prince was looking for and what the Tigers were looking to do. But obviously, it ended up [working out].”

Jackson compared it to a holiday gift.

“To be honest with you, I thought it was a long shot,” he said. “I think myself and a lot of other people were probably putting it on a wish list. You think about things like that. You think about what a guy like him could contribute to this team, but you always think those things are long shots. When it actually happened, it was like, ‘All right, I can see this team is really serious about moving in the right direction.”

Miguel Cabrera, the man Fielder is expected to move out from first base, had an idea it was a possibility. He told Venezuelan reporter Marfa Mata that the Tigers had approached him during last week’s winter caravan to let him know it was a possibility and to see how he felt about it, including the possibility of changing positions.

Not only was Cabrera on board, he was excited.

“Some people forget that this is my [old] position, third base,” Mata quotes Cabrera, translated through Google. “I want a better team.”

So do most of the Tigers, even those whose roles might be impacted. Kelly was looking at a potential platoon role at third base going into the season, the kind of set role he hasn’t had in the big leagues. If Cabrera moves to third, there’s a good chance that changes.

That wasn’t among Kelly’s chief concerns Tuesday night.

“Looking at it, when you have a team and you can add a guy like Prince Fielder to that team, your team’s obviously going to be better,” he said.

Even Tigers who haven’t made it to Detroit yet were looking forward to the possibility. Top pitching prospect Jacob Turner was heading into the season looking to compete for the fifth spot in the Tigers rotation. His run support picture now looks much different. He retweeted the news almost as soon as it hit Twitter.

Fellow Tigers pitching prospect Drew Smyly, who’s expected to compete for the same rotation spot, learned about his new teammate soon afterwards.

“That’s one hell of an offense,” he tweeted.

Tigers reach deals with Kelly, Scherzer, Young

For a 10th consecutive year, the Tigers have avoided going to arbitration. This time, they didn’t get past the day numbers were exchanged.

On the day arbitration-eligible players and teams exchange numbers, the Tigers found a middle ground with their remaining three eligible players and settled. They agreed to one-year deals with right-hander Max Scherzer, outfielder Delmon Young and utilityman Don Kelly.

Kelly will earn $900,000 this coming season. Young and the Tigers settled for $6.75 million, according to CBSSports.com, which also reported Scherzer’s salary $3.75 million plus bonuses.

Kelly’s contract shows the value of versatility on the market. He made his case with two years of solid utility work, playing in 231 games combined over the last two seasons. He batted .245 (63-for-257) last year with eight doubles, three triples, seven home runs, 28 RBIs and a .672 OPS. He also pitched in one game and caught in another during the same week in late June and early July.

Kelly was eligible for arbitration for the first time after 11 years in pro baseball. The 27-year-old Scherzer had to wait a little less after his Major League debut in 2008 and three seasons in a rotation after that, the last two with the Tigers.

In terms of victories, last season was the best for Scherzer, who went 15-9 despite a career-high 4.43 ERA. He struck out 174 batters over 195 innings while allowing 207 hits and 29 home runs. He has 94 starts over the last three years, including a career-high 33 in 2011.

Young was expected to be the most challenging case, partly because he’s a year away from free agency, partly because he had what seemed like two different seasons — an early-season struggle with Minnesota before a late-season surge in Detroit.

The 26-year-old ended up with a .268 average with 12 home runs and 64 RBIs in 124 games before hitting five postseason runs in the Tigers’ run to the American League Championship Series.

The Tigers haven’t faced an arbitration ruling since Dave Dombrowski took over as general manager in 2002.

Kelly, Tigers agree to one-year deal

Today’s the day when arbitration-eligible players are scheduled to exchange figures with their teams, which makes it the day a lot of deals get done to avoid arbitration. You can add Don Kelly to the list.

A source confirms that the Tigers have avoided arbitration with Kelly, settling on a one-year deal worth $900,000. Credit Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com and MLB Network with the scoop.

Kelly made his case with two years of solid utility work, playing in 231 games combined over the last two seasons. He batted .245 (63-for-257) last year with eight doubles, three triples, seven home runs, 28 RBIs and a .672 OPS. He also pitched in a game, as you may have heard.

Kelly’s contract shows the value of versatility on the market. For comparison’s sake, Ramon Santiago received $825,000 his first season after becoming arbitration-eligible.

Kelly’s deal leaves Max Scherzer and Delmon Young as the remaining arbitration-eligible Tigers who have yet to reach a deal. Once the figures are released, we should get an idea how far apart they are.

Betemit’s knee flares up again, not ready yet

UPDATE: Team doctors examined Betemit later Monday afternoon. According to Betemit, everything was fine aside from the inflammation. He’s hoping for good news Tuesday.

Wilson Betemit came to Comerica Park early on Monday with a plan to start at third base, his first start in a week and a half. It was supposed to be his first of three games to get ready for the postseason. Then he tried to push off with his left knee moving for a ball.

Now, his situation is a question mark once again, and his manager is increasingly concerned.

“He’s not right,” Leyland said. “I’m worried about Betemit. And I’ll leave it at that.”

Betemit sounded a little less concerned as he tried to clear up his own situation, but nonetheless anxious. He played in three straight Division Series with the Braves and Dodgers from 2004-06, and he has a very good chance to start for the Tigers in this one coming up. But he has to be healthy to do it.

He thought he was. Right now, he said, his knee’s “so-so.”

“I went out today to go work on the field,” Betemit said. “and I felt something push on my knee.”

Betemit was diagnosed a week ago with inflammation in the knee after injuring it on a slide Sept. 16 at Oakland. He still has swelling on the inside of the knee, which is where he felt the problem when he went to push off. He also feels discomfort, he said, when he goes into an all-out sprint. He feels fine when he’s batting.

“Hopefully I’ll be fine,” Betemit said, “because, man, I want to play. I have to do everything I can to play.”

With Betemit out, Don Kelly started at third base for the third time in the last four days and the fifth time in Detroit’s last eight games. Cleveland has right-handed pitchers starting every game in this series to end the regular season, so it’s uncertain whether Brandon Inge, Detroit’s defensive replacement and part-time starter at third, might get a start.

Once the postseason begins, that question becomes a lot more interesting, depending on the opponent. The Yankees, for instance, are expected to start lefty CC Sabathia to open their Division Series, then have a handful of right-handed candidates.

Leyland is keeping pretty mum on his postseason roster, and he isn’t going to map out how the Tiger would replace Betemit if he can’t go. While team officials met Monday to discuss the roster, among other topics, they didn’t announce anything. Kelly could be a big part of it, but dedicating him to third base would also take a candidate out of right field. The Tigers also have infielder Danny Worth, but he has played all of four innings at third base this month since rejoining the club from Triple-A Toledo.

Friday: Tigers vs. Orioles

The plan was for Wilson Betemit to start at third base tonight. Rain all day around Detroit changed the plan.

“Damp, cool night, didn’t want to take the chance,” Jim Leyland said this afternoon.

Too bad, too, because Betemit is 3-for-3 with a home run off O’s starter Alfredo Simon. Brandon Inge homered off Simon in their only meeting, but Don Kelly gets another start at third tonight, batting second.

The Orioles don’t have a lot of left-handed bats to test Rick Porcello tonight, just two lefties and a switch-hitter. But the guys they have — Nick Markakis, Matt Wieters and Chris Davis) are pretty good.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Don Kelly, 3B
  3. Delmon Young, LF
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  5. Victor Martinez, DH
  6. Alex Avila, C
  7. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  8. Andy Dirks, RF
  9. Ramon Santiago, 2B

P: Rick Porcello

ORIOLES

  1. Robert Andino, 2B
  2. J.J. Hardy, SS
  3. Nick Markakis, RF
  4. Vladimir Guerrero, DH
  5. Matt Wieters, C
  6. Adam Jones, CF
  7. Mark Reynolds, 1B
  8. Chris Davis, 3B
  9. Nolan Reimold, LF

P: Alfredo Simon

Wednesday: The non-Cabrera lineup

Cabrera, as scheduled, is getting the day off. He’ll get in his pregame work, and Leyland said he won’t hesitate to use him as a pinch-hitter if there’s a chance to win the game, but he’s out of the lineup. The result: Victor Martinez moves up to cleanup, Alex Avila bats fifth and Jhonny Peralta bats sixth. Don Kelly plays first base in what his becoming his usual second spot. Wilson Betemit isn’t ready yet, so Brandon Inge gets the start at third.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Don Kelly, 1B
  3. Delmon Young, LF
  4. Victor Martinez, DH
  5. Alex Avila, C
  6. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  7. Andy Dirks, RF
  8. Ramon Santiago, 2B
  9. Brandon Inge, 3B

P: Max Scherzer/Doug Fister

ROYALS

  1. Alex Gordon, LF
  2. Melky Cabrera, CF
  3. Billy Butler, DH
  4. Eric Hosmer, 1B
  5. Jeff Francoeur, RF
  6. Mike Moustakas, 3B
  7. Johnny Giavotella, 2B
  8. Salvador Perez, C
  9. Alcides Escobar, SS

P: Felipe Paulino

Martinez scratched with lower back spasms

Victor Martinez had managed to stay in the Tigers lineup for two weeks after spraining his left knee in Kansas City. But on Monday, it was a bout of lower back spasms that knocked him out. He was a late scratch from Detroit’s batting order.

Martinez was slated to bat in his usual spot behind Miguel Cabrera. Without him, Alex Avila moved up to the fifth spot in the order for just the second time this season. Cabrera took the DH spot, while Don Kelly was inserted into the lineup at first base, batting eighth.

Martinez is batting .326 (15-for-46) with two home runs and six RBIs over the last two weeks. His absence tests the depth of a Tigers lineup that has spread out its damage in recent weeks up and down the order.

What Inge’s return means for Tigers

Brandon Inge’s return from exile will come a little earlier than expected. Not only will the Tigers purchase his contract from Triple-A Toledo Saturday, they’ll put him in the starting lineup against Indians lefty starter David Huff Saturday night. From there, a very interesting mix at third base is going to unfold for the stretch run.

Jim Leyland made the announcement on the Inge move, and he explained it as this: The Tigers expect to see four or five left-handed starters between now and Sept. 1, when Inge was expected to come up. Inge has been pounding left-handed pitching while with the Mud Hens, 15-for-38 (.395) with three home runs and nine RBIs against lefties when you add in his rehab assignment in June. Yes, those are Triple-A lefties rather than David Price, whom the Tigers are scheduled to face next week. But they’re also signs of a comfort level.

Though Wilson Betemit’s a switch-hitter, his splits are much stronger against righties (.313) than lefties (.238, 34 strikeouts in 90 plate appearances). He also had been giving up starts to Don Kelly for defensive purposes.

Leyland floated the idea Wednesday. He followed through on Friday.

The move to send down Andy Dirks is more procedural than performance. The Tigers can option him out and bring him back Sept. 1 with no problem, and they should might be able to get him eligible for a postseason roster spot if they choose, in case of a player on the DL. And with the slate of lefties they have ahead of them, though Dirks has fared pretty well against southpaws, they’re not going to sit Austin Jackson, Brennan Boesch, Delmon Young or Magglio Ordonez to get Dirks a spot against them.

Martinez leaves with bruised shoulder, Kelly catches

Tigers catcher Victor Martinez left Saturday night’s rain-delayed game against the Giants after taking a pitch off his right shoulder, leading to utilityman Don Kelly’s first career appearance behind the plate.

Martinez left with a bruised right shoulder after being hit by a pitch from Brayan Villarreal, who entered the game in the third inning after a 2-hour, 36-minute rain delay. Martinez finished the inning after head athletic trainer Kevin Rand attended to him, but Kelly came out of the dugout with catching gear on for the top of the fourth inning.

It was the realization of a insurance plan the Tigers had planned back in Spring Training, but under different circumstances. By working Kelly at catcher, the plan went, the Tigers wouldn’t have to forfeit the designated hitter spot on days when Alex Avila caught and Martinez started at DH.

In Saturday’s case, though, Martinez wasn’t the DH, and Avila was available off the bench. With the Tigers down, 10-0, though, manager Jim Leyland used the opportunity to get Kelly some game time.

Kelly’s first career appearance at catcher came three days after he pitched in Detroit’s 16-9 loss to the Mets. He has now played every position at some point in his Major League career.

Just 55 other players since 1901 have pitched and caught in the same season, according to research on baseball-reference.com. The most recent was Kevin Cash, who did it with the Astros last season.

Add in Kelly’s other appearances this year in all three outfield spots, plus first and third base, and he’s just the eighth player in that time frame to play all those spots in one year. Former Tiger Shane Halter and then-Ranger Scott Sheldon both did it in 2000, doing so while playing all nine positions in a game.

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