Jim Leyland's all-time favorite utility man, Don Kelly, had a huge day at the plate in today's loss to the Braves; 4 for 4 with an RBI, a pair of doubles and a home run, ending a triple short of the cycle.
At first glance, it looked for all the world like a performance which solidified Kelly's hold on one of the backup outfielder spots. In fact, recent media reports out of Lakeland had Kelly as a mortal lock for the 25 man roster, thanks to his defensive versatility. Hitting .304/.407/.696 with four home runs and seven RBI in 23 games hasn't hurt, either.
Turns out we may have put Kelly's numerous gloves in the roster basket before they were fully oiled.
Jason Beck of MLB.com reports Kelly will not exercise the opt-out clause in his minor league contract. If he doesn't make the team, GM Dave Dombrowski "will try to find another situation for him." In other words, the Tigers will try to place Kelly with another major league team. If unsuccessful, Kelly will accept an assignment to Triple A Toledo.
Read into it what you will, but it appears Kelly is not at all assured of going north with the team. What once appeared fait accompli may now be down to a coin flip.
Kelly had little to say, preferring to worry about what he's doing on the field.
Kelly: "This is all contractual stuff. I'm just trying to go out and get hits."— Jason Beck (@beckjason) March 26, 2013
There's been no official announcement yet as to who has won an outfield bench job. Barring a trade or waiver pickup, it appears there are four players vying for two roster spots.
Matt Tuiasosopo is assumed to have slugged his way onto the roster thanks to his 1.094 OPS and the Tigers' need for a right-handed bat. Speed merchant Quintin Berry may be pushing Kelly for the role of 25th man. Utility man Danny Worth also remains in the running.
There's a possibility the Tigers are waiting to see if Berry is fully recovered from patellar tenditinis in his left knee before giving him the final roster spot. If not, Kelly is their insurance policy.
The battle between Donnie Baseball, Thunder Clap, Big Squiggles and Worth will likely go to the final days of spring training. Save for naming a closer, it's the only decision the Tigers have left to make before Opening Day.