Kelly playing himself back on Tigers roster

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Decisions are coming soon and it would not be a shock if Don Kelly was a Detroit Tiger once again.

Kelly came into Sunday’s game against the New York Mets in the bottom of the fifth inning, replacing Prince Fielder at first base.

In the Tigers’ five-run seventh inning, Kelly did his best Fielder impression at the plate, hitting a two-run home run to right field. It was his third homer of the spring.

“It was a fastball cutter, and with the guy on second, nobody out, I was just really trying to get him to third and pulled the ball on the right side,” Kelly said.

So far this spring, Kelly is batting .244 with three home runs and six RBIs in 21 games (41 at-bats).

“He’s had a good spring,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “He was really doing good until he ran into some tough left-handers, too. You can’t control that early in spring training. He’s done pretty good.”

But has it been good enough to make the big league club? That remains to be seen.

Working for Kelly is his versatility. He can play pretty much any position, including pitcher or catcher if needed.

Working against Kelly is the fact that the Tigers want a right-handed batter to be the backup for Andy Dirks in left field.

Kelly knows that decisions are coming up this week, no later than Thursday, according to Leyland.

“Obviously, you’re human and those thoughts cross your mind,” Kelly said. “Everybody knows it’s coming up. You just go out there and try to simplify things on a daily basis. More so at-bat to at-bat, pitch to pitch and try to get a good pitch to hit. I was able to do that (Sunday).”

Kelly said the main reason he signed a minor-league deal with the Tigers in the offseason was his familiarity with the organization and the people. He also knew with Miguel Cabrera participating in the World Baseball Classic that he would get a fair number of at-bats.

“If you sign with somebody else, you might not get 10 or 15 at-bats in spring training, depending on what happens,” Kelly said. “I knew that coming here, I was going to get an opportunity to play.”

Kelly knows that Leyland holds him in high esteem. But he’s also smart enough to know that doesn’t guarantee him a spot on the team.

“I’m not nervous,” Kelly said. “When you’ve gone through it so many times, I think it’s more from a family standpoint, just not knowing where you might end up. My wife’s been through it a lot and the kids, too, so it’s just something that you get used to in the game. Honestly, you look forward to it.

“You’d rather be in this position rather than having been sent down or not have a chance to make the team.”