Still, as somebody who had been a feel-good story when he made the Tigers' roster three years ago and became a pivotal bench player last year, Kelly's designation for assignment by the Tigers was far from a routine roster move for a lot of people.
It had long been anticipated as a possibility whenever Andy Dirks was ready to come off the disabled list. Though Kelly wasn't the only reserve on the roster with a low batting average, he's a left-handed hitter like Dirks and Quintin Berry. Ryan Raburn, who has struggled for most of the year to find his swing, bats right-handed.
"It's one of those unfortunate things," manager Jim Leyland said. "I felt bad for him, I really do, but I knew this day was coming."
Kelly is one of the most versatile players in baseball today, having played literally every position at some point during his big league career. However, he wasn't being used that way this season. His starts, for the most part, had been limited to the outfield, and even those starts had dwindled with Berry's emergence. Kelly had started exactly one game since July 1, and had basically become a late-inning defensive substitute for Brennan Boesch in right field.
That explains in part Kelly's .175 batting average on the year. With maybe one at-bat a game, he wasn't getting many chances to see pitching.
"Donnie Kelly was just a victim of circumstance," Leyland said, "and really, he was just a victim of Quintin Berry doing very well."
Add Dirks, a similarly strong defensive outfielder, into the mix, and Kelly's role was in serious question.
"They had to make a move," Kelly said. "Any time you're not swinging the bat well, that can always happen."