Friday, 1 July 2011

Don Kelly becomes Tigers' first position player to pitch since Shane Halter in 2000

don-kelly-30.jpgAP PhotoDetroit utility man Don Kelly delivers a pitch against the New York Mets in the ninth inning Wednesday.DETROIT -- It's odd to see a ninth-inning standing ovation when the home team is trailing 16-9.

Of course, it's also odd to see utility man Don Kelly on the mound at all, firing 86-mph fastballs at the New York Mets.

But after New York scored 30 runs the past two days against the Tigers, and Detroit depleted its bullpen trying to stem the damage, Tigers manager Jim Leyland called on Kelly when lefty reliever David Purcey ran out of gas with two outs in the ninth.

Kelly delivered, retiring Mets designated hitter Scott Hairston on a lazy fly ball to center field to end the top of the night.

On a 2-2 curveball, no less.

"Or whatever resembled one," Kelly said.

The crowd gave him a standing ovation, cheering him with an enthusiasm normally reserved for a save by closer Jose Valverde.

"My mentality was to just try to get the ball over the plate," said Kelly, who had not pitched since a fall league in college.

Kelly said he was told to start loosening up at the start the ninth inning, in case the Tigers needed another pitcher.

What was going through his mind when he took that mound for the first time?

"There was adrenaline going the whole time," he said. "I just didn't want to overthrow."

Did he sneak a peak at the stadium's radar gun in left field?

"On the first pitch, no" he said with a smirk. "But it was 86 up there later on."

Kelly is the first position player to pitch for the Tigers since Shane Halter appeared in an Oct. 1, 2000 game against the Minnesota Twins.

After the game, the Tigers optioned reliever Daniel Schlereth to Toledo and called up Brayan Villarreal to offer reinforcements.

But, on an otherwise dour night for Detroit, Kelly at least offered the Tigers a bit of levity.

And, yes, Kelly said he is available for Thursday's game.?

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