LAKELAND, Fla. -- Don Kelly had to wait until the final cuts of Spring Training before he could breathe a sigh of relief, knowing he had made the Tigers' Opening Day roster. This year, the news came three weeks early.
"He's going to be on this team," manager Jim Leyland said Tuesday morning.
Leyland is still trying to figure out his outfield mix, but Kelly is going to be a part of it. Between his left-handed bat and his ability to play virtually any position but pitcher, he's too valuable to keep off the roster.
Leyland used to say those super utility players were National League types of players. He said it about Omar Infante once upon a time, and he once said it about Ryan Raburn. The last few years, though, Kelly's versatility has been useful to this American League team.
"There's something to be said for guys like Don Kelly," Leyland said. "First of all, he's a better player than people think. He did very well when he got a chance to play a little bit more last year. He got some big hits, played all over. He can play second base, turned two or three nice double plays [Monday against the Mets], made a couple nice plays. He's a real valuable guy. He's really a good fit on our team."
Kelly was flattered, and certainly glad to hear his roster spot was official. But he said that isn't going to change the way he goes about this camp.
"I'm not going to approach anything any differently," he said. "You can't approach it any differently than last year, when you're fighting for a spot. I still have a lot of work to do to get ready for the season."