LAKELAND, Fla. -- Don Kelly reached folk-hero status in Detroit as a super-utility player, becoming a postseason hero during the Tigers' run of four consecutive division titles. It's only appropriate that his post-playing career would begin in a similar role.When Kelly trotted onto the back fields at Tigertown in uniform,
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Don Kelly reached folk-hero status in Detroit as a super-utility player, becoming a postseason hero during the Tigers' run of four consecutive division titles. It's only appropriate that his post-playing career would begin in a similar role.
When Kelly trotted onto the back fields at Tigertown in uniform, the 37-year-old sparked speculation that he might make one more try at his old job. However, his playing days are over. Instead, he has joined the Tigers, his original organization, as a pro scout and player development assistant.
"Good to be back," Kelly said as he jogged between practice fields Saturday morning.
He will spend Spring Training as an instructor, then visit the Tigers' Minor League affiliates during the season to teach and evaluate. He will also travel to other Minor League stops and evaluate, helping general manager Al Avila add to the Tigers' scouting presence in the lower levels of the Minors. The team could make more hirings to that end.
Kelly and the Tigers had talked about such a role earlier in the offseason, Avila said, but nothing became official until recently.
Unless things change, Kelly will close his playing career with a .230 batting average, .628 OPS, 23 home runs and 98 RBIs over a nine-year Major League career. He went 9-for-34 in the postseason, including a solo homer at Yankee Stadium in Game 5 of the 2011 American League Division Series and a game-winning sacrifice fly in Game 2 of the 2012 ALDS against Oakland.
Ausmus open to V-Mart at first
Victor Martinez played just five games at first base last year as manager Brad Ausmus tried to get him through the season with a hernia injury and knee concerns. When Martinez grabbed a glove and took grounders at first base in the Tigers' first full-squad workout Saturday, it looked like a message to Ausmus about his health.
Ausmus, however, already had talked to him about it.
"I'm hoping he can play some first base this year," Ausmus said, "but we have to see how he feels. Because Miggy could use some more days off his feet, DHing. But it's really going to depend on how Victor feels and is moving. We'll wait and see. As of right now, it's kind of an open-ended option."
Another option is catcher Alex Avila, who made 13 starts at first base for the Tigers two years ago. The former college corner infielder played exclusively at catcher and DH for the White Sox last season.
• While impressions can be difficult in early bullpen sessions, Ausmus said he has been impressed with right-hander Ruben Alaniz, a non-roster invite who split last season between Triple-A Toledo and Double-A Erie.
"He's got a good arm, up to mid-90s," Ausmus said. "He has good sink and run on the ball in on righties, good slider."
• Ausmus made his annual opening speech to the players Saturday morning, with the full squad present for the first time this spring. He went over team rules for the season but didn't get into specifics.
"People make a big deal about what the manager is going to say on the first day," Ausmus said, "but we're seven weeks from a game that means anything. First of all, whatever you say, you have to hope it carries over for seven weeks and they remember it. It's really just general ideas and philosophies that you hope carry through."
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.