DETROIT -- Don Kelly played seven different positions in 2011, including a mound appearance and six innings catching. He now gets to play the role of award recipient.
The Detroit Baseball Society has honored Kelly with its inaugural Tenth Man Award. The award is intended to acknowledge the talents and efforts of a Tigers player who, while not always a starter, contributes to his team in multiple ways.
Kelly's contributions were almost too numerous to count. He was already a valuable utility man going into the season, capable of playing all three outfield spots and all over the infield while providing a left-handed bat with some power. His 2011 season stepped up his role a bit.
With Victor Martinez simultaneously serving as backup catcher and primary designated hitter, Kelly was the emergency catcher, and served as such for six innings during a July 2 loss to the Giants once the game got out of hand. Though manager Jim Leyland had always insisted he wouldn't use a position player as a pitcher, Kelly was his choice when back-to-back blowouts to the Mets put him in the difficult position of a spent bullpen and needing one more out in the ninth inning.
When Brandon Inge went on the disabled list in June with mononucleosis, Kelly was his primary replacement while also batting second in the order. He ended up with more starts that month than in any other. When Wilson Betemit replaced Brandon Inge as the main third baseman at the end of July, Kelly was usually the defensive replacement.
Kelly served as a defensive replacement and occasional starter in both corner outfield spots, and even added three starts in center field early in the season. The only positions he didn't play in 2011 were second base, where he has played before, and shortstop, his original position in college and the Minor Leagues.
Though Kelly's 112 games trailed his total from last year, he set career bests with 62 starts, 281 plate appearances and 257 at-bats. His offensive production remained consistent, slightly up from last year, with a .245 average, .672 OPS, seven home runs and 28 RBIs. His home run in Game 5 of the American League Division Series at Yankee Stadium opened Detroit's scoring en route to a 3-2 win that advanced the Tigers to the AL Championship Series.
Kelly will receive a crystal commemorative artwork at the 11th annual Detroit Baseball Dinner, scheduled for Jan. 28 at The Townsend Hotel in suburban Birmingham.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.