THE REVIEW: Tigers’ utility man embraces changing role
By Emily Waldon
Since making his way into the Detroit Tigers organization, not once, but twice; Don Kelly has become a fixture who has seemingly mastered the secret of reinventing his role on a regular basis.
For the 34-year-old Pennsylvania native, transition has become a part of everyday life when he steps foot on the field. Currently standing as the only active player to have spent playing time at every position, Kelly has quickly and quietly become a “25th man” who embodies the skill level of nine men.
“It keeps me really busy during batting practice,” Kelly said. “I’m always bouncing around and getting my work in at different spots.”
The Tigers resident Swiss Army knife seems to have embraced he expectations for him to produce when and where it’s needed. While maintaining a .255 average at the plate, Kelly’s performance may not scream superstar, but the organization seems to have taken a shine to the utility chameleon.
With all the changes surfacing this season, thanks in part to General Manager Dave Dombrowski maneuvering the franchise chessboard, the team seems to be adapting very well.
“I think that the acquisition of David Price is a big one,” Kelly said. “When you add a guy like David Price to a rotation that already has Max (Scherzer), Justin (Verlander), Rick (Porcello) and Anibal (Sanchez), it’s the top rotation in the league.”
Despite struggles in the bullpen that have left many scratching their heads, the club is continuing to ride its explosive offensive performance to stay atop the Central Division under coach Brad Ausmus.
“Brad’s done a great job,” Kelly said. “It’s hard to come in and step in for a guy like Jim Leyland, who’s a Hall of Fame caliber manager. Brad’s come in and been his own guy. We went through a tough stretch in June, which was really his first trial as a manager. He really was even keel throughout the whole thing and has done a great job.”
While you would expect the effects of the rollercoaster over the past few seasons to strike a blow at the team’s moral, Kelly is pleased that spirits are high in the Tigers locker room.
“We’ve got guys that are funny,” he said. “We’re always playing music. Little inside jokes, especially with the group that we have that’s been together for a while. Everyone kind of gets on each other jokingly, keeps the clubhouse light and everyone has fun.”
Kelly and his teammates are also appreciating the presence of a healthy Victor Martinez, who has provided a one-two punch for going deep alongside Miguel Cabrera.
“When you can throw a guy like Victor in behind Miggy, it’s huge,” Kelly said. “We missed him in 2012, but for him to come back last year and put the numbers he did, especially starting off so slow, is impressive. Also, his contributions in the clubhouse are important for our team. He’s a leader on and off the field for us.”
To some in Major League baseball, the expectations of your performance can prove daunting, but to Kelly, it’s just another day in the office.
“There’s a lot of ways that you can help the team out,” Kelly said. “Whether it’s playing a different position, pinch running, pinch hitting, just a lot of different situations that you can go into and help the team win a game.”
Kelly’s continued resilience, combined with a pitching staff that been instilled with new life, are just a few ingredients that the Tigers organization is leaning on to insure that a World Series title finds its way back to Detroit.
Emily Waldon was raised in Howard City and currently resides in Wyoming, Mich. A lifelong sports enthusiast, she also enjoys photography, traveling and bringing a fresh outlook to the world of athletics, both collegiate and professional. She can be reached at email@example.com