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Say What? Clete Down, Kelly Up

Shortly after the Tigers' 4-3 loss to the White Sox, the team announced that Clete Thomas was being optioned to Triple-A Toledo, with infielder-outfielder Don Kelly getting the call up to the majors.

My initial reaction when Kurt passed the news along by instant message (via Jason Beck on Twitter) was shock. But not just because I'm a fan of Thomas (and a premium cardholder with The Cult of Clete). I just didn't get the move. If an outfielder needed to be sent down to make room for an infielder, why not Josh Anderson or Ryan Raburn? Yes, Anderson brings more speed, but he hasn't been hitting well recently. And Raburn provides a right-handed bat, but Marcus Thames just rejoined the team.

I figured Kelly was being called up to help out at first base, as this week demonstrated that there's no suitable reserve at first base behind Miguel Cabrera if Jeff Larish is in Triple-A (and has to stay down there until at least next week). He's played 34 games at first over his minor league career, six times this season (and several more in Spring Training). But Kelly has mostly played in the outfield with the Mud Hens, and Jim Leyland says he'll start in left field in Friday's series opener vs. Pittsburgh.

Regardless of which position he plays, one thing Kelly has done this season is hit, and that might be the primary reason he was called up. In 52 games with Toledo, Kelly batted .339/.407/.475 with three home runs and 22 RBIs. And hitting was also the main factor in deciding to send Thomas down, according to Leyland.


"Clete, we love," said Tigers manager Jim Leyland. "But he has to work on shortening his swing. His swing is too long... People are throwing high fastballs by him. But I'm sure he'll be back; he has a very good chance to be a very good major league player."

Apparently, Thomas's recent power surge - three homers in his last 11 games - messed with his swing too much. Instead of a line drive hitter who puts the ball in play, Clete's become a guy who has nine strikeouts in his last nine games.

It's a tough break for him, going from hitting a grand slam on Sunday to the minor leagues by Friday. But Leyland obviously still thinks highly of Clete, given how often he was in the lineup (and batting third). The Tigers just want to see Clete work on what's necessary to become even better in that role, and he can do that getting everyday at-bats in Toledo. He'll be back in Detroit soon enough.