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Tigers' emergency catcher is ... Don Kelly?

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Don Kelly, super-duper sub and Tigers' third catcher?
Don Kelly, super-duper sub and Tigers' third catcher?

This little tidbit couldn't slip through without a bit more play: The Tigers appear set to open the season with three catchers on the roster: Alex Avila, Victor Martinez and ... Don Kelly?!

(Insert record scratch noise here.)

Yes, Don Kelly, Tigers utility fielder extraordinaire.

I've long thought his position on the 25-man roster in 2011 was about 95% safe. He struggled at the plate last season but he can work the glove in both the outfield and the infield at an above-average rate. That gives a manager a lot of flexibility. Jim Leyland especially likes to make defensive replacements late. So Kelly was probably going to be on the team.

Turns out, there's a skill we didn't know about: catching.

Why is that important? You probably remember the worry about what occurs if Victor Martinez plays as the designated hitter and something bad happens to the catcher, Alex Avila. Worst case scenario for the game: The Tigers give up the DH and have to bat the pitcher. That made some wonder if Detroit should actually carry a third catcher.

Now, the Tigers don't have to.

MLB.com's Jason Beck reports Kelly is going to take some squats behind home plate during spring training this year.

"[Don] Kelly's going to do some catching in Spring Training," Leyland said. "When I say that, I'm not talking about catching three innings every day or every other day. Just get him used to it, so we can feel comfortable if we have to put him in there."

So with those words, it sounds like Kelly is now a lock to make the team and gives Leyland even more flexibility than before. Adjust your projected rosters accordingly.