I knew there would be another roster move to come out of the Tigers sometime in the middle of the week. But I have to say, I never expected the optioning of Clete Thomas to Triple-A Toledo to be that change.
I’m all the more shocked because this move was made to recall Don (Donnie?) Kelly. Not that there’s anything wrong with Kelly. He’s got an 885 OPS stemming from a .407 on-base percentage and .478 slugging average. His batting average is .341, and hes’ got 16 extra-base hits in 182 at-bats. Given the Tigers’ inability to score a lot of runs lately, taking a look at this infielder/outfielder–mostly a center fielder in Toledo, but experienced playing multiple infield positions–makes some good sense.
But Thomas? Not right-handed batter Ryan Raburn? Isn’t Kelly just a better-hitting Raburn? (edit: just to be clear, Kelly bats left-handed, but right-handed Marcus Thames replaced a left-handed bat last week.)
MLB.com beat writer Jason Beck has the goods on the decision:
Thomas started out as a spark for the Tigers after joining the team in early May, but he was batting under .200 since May 16, including 0-for-4 with two strikeouts Thursday. His grand slam last Sunday was one of just three hits for him in 29 June at-bats.
“Thomas has to work on shortening his swing,” manager Jim Leyland said. “This is not a punishment. This is a player that we love.”
I have a feeling Kelly’s versatality ahead of a couple of weeks of interleague play factored in somewhat, too.
I hate to see Thomas sent down, but hopefully he improves what the Tigers want him to work on. I feel like he’s the best corner outfielder from a defensive standpoint. But Josh Anderson has really come a long way since the adventures he was having out there in April, so maybe it washes out in the end. Yet, I feel like Thomas is still a better option at the plate than Anderson. Maybe it’s splitting hairs. Neither batter has been all that impressive at the plate. I’m sure this won’t be the last we see of Thomas.
In the meantime, I am excited to see if the numbers Kelly has been putting up in Toledo can be transferred to the Tigers. The 29-year-old Kelly has played right field, left field, second base, third base and center field. And that’s just since June 1. Though Kelly was a Tigers draft pick in 2001, he got his couple of cups of coffee for the Pirates in 2007, but he didn’t do much with his opportunity there. He signed a minor league contract with the Tigers organization following 2008.
I feel like they’ll end up making a trade for a corner outfielder or designated hitter before the trade deadline, but it doesn’t hurt to see what you’ve got in the organization right now–and see if any teams out there might be interested, as well.