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Don Kelly Wears The Crown Once Again July 9, 2011

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.
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As reigning Utility King, I didn’t think Don Kelly could do much more to impress me. It seems I was wrong.

I’m not sure how I missed it, but about a week ago, Kelly made a fool of me for saying that he had played every position except catcher. I can’t say it much better than Samara Pearlstein did at Roar of the Tigers, though:

There was only one option left, and that option was the infinitely versatile Don Kelly. This season alone he has played every outfield position, first base, third base, DH, and pitcher– and now catcher. In previous seasons he has seen (brief) time at second base and shortstop as well.

(The photo is courtesy Samara’s ridiculously generous sharing policy. Thanks!)

… so is Brandon Inge angry about Don Kelly taking his emergency catcher job? For whatever reason, Jim Leyland ruled that out in the spring, so it looks like Kelly has taken over as the Tigers’ top utilityman.

Kelly last played shortstop for the Pirates in 2007 and second base for the Tigers in 2009. In addition to playing both sides of the battery, he’s played first, third, left, center, right, and designated hitter, and he’s been used as a pinch hitter and a pinch runner this year.

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Don Kelly, Utility King June 30, 2011

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.
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Super utility dervish Don Kelly is this year’s second inductee into the prestigious* Spectrum Club, which loyal readers if any will recognize as the group of players who have played both pitcher and designated hitter in a given season. Kelly pitched a perfect third of an inning (for those keeping score at home, that’s one out) against the Mets last night during a 16-9 Tigers loss.

Kelly’s lifetime pitching statistics: 0.1 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 HR, 0 BB, 0 K, 1 BF. That batter was Scott Hairston, who flied out to Austin Jackson at center.

Kelly came in after David Purcey, the Tigers’ last arm in the bullpen, pitched the last out of the eighth and the first two of the ninth. In his one inning, Purcey gave up five hits, four runs (all of them earned), two walks (one intentional), and no strikeouts. Purcey’s ninth inning started promisingly when Justin Turner grounded out and Carlos Beltran flied out, but David then gave up a double to catcher Ronnie Paulino, walked Jason Bay, and then allowed Angel Pagan to double, scoring Paulino. At that point, Jim Leyland called on Kelly, who took care of Hairston to end the inning.

That makes three utility pitchers thus far this year. Of the position players who pitched, Wilson Valdez, Mike McCoy and Don Kelly have each played at least three non-pitching positions. Valdez has  played at second base, third base, and shortstop; McCoy has played second, third, shortstop, center field, and left field; and Kelly has played first, third, left, center, and right. They’re three of the four pitchers with fifty or more plate appearances. (Roy Halladay is the fourth, with exactly 50 PA this year.)

Over the course of his career, Kelly has been a utility ubermensch, playing every position except catcher. As a lifetime .242/.287/.341 hitter, Kelly needs to be versatile defensively to keep himself working. That’s essentially the same way Mike McCoy keeps his job. Kelly had never pitched professionally before.

*not a guarantee