Don Kelly’s locker is full of leather.
Outfielder’s glove. He’s got one. First baseman’s mitt. He’s got one of those, too.
He even has his very own catcher’s mitt, not to mention a middle-infielder’s glove and one for third base, as well.
They’re not just for show.
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Kelly is not just capable of playing all nine positions on the field. He’s one of only 20 major league players since 1901 to have actually done so.
“If the team needs it, I’ll do it,” is Kelly’s motto.
The Marlins signed the 35-year-old jack-of-all-trades to a minor league deal over the winter. But given his versatility and big-league experience, there’s a solid chance he’ll land a bench spot on the Opening Day roster.
“He can do it all,” said Marlins manager Mike Redmond. “He gives you value at different positions.”
Kelly has played all or parts of seven seasons in the majors, including the previous six with the Detroit Tigers. Though he carries a lifetime average of .232, he came up large for the Tigers on two separate occasions in the postseason.
He connected on a solo homer at Yankee Stadium in the deciding Game 5 of the 2011 American League Division Series, giving the Tigers a lead they would not relinquish. And his walk-off sacrifice fly gave Detroit the win in Game 2 of the 2012 ALDS against Oakland.
“I get chills thinking about it right now,” Kelly said. “Those are moments when you’re a kid, in the back yard, just playing around, that you make up in your mind, being up in Yankee Stadium, big game. To be able to come through like that, it’s awesome.”
Kelly’s claim to fame, though, is his versatility. He’s one of only two active players — Jake Elmore of the Tampa Bay Rays is the other — to have played all nine positions at one point during his career.
Kelly came up as a shortstop in the Pirates organization, and that was the first position he played in the majors when he debuted in 2007. But Kelly hasn’t played one game at shortstop since. He’s played everywhere else, though.
“My second full year, I started bouncing around the infield,” he said.
First base. Second and third.
Eventually the Tigers moved him to the outfield, which is the position the Marlins have him listed as on their spring training roster.
Then came 2011. Kelly was brought in to pitch in a blowout loss to the Mets, retiring the only batter he faced, Scott Hairston, on a fly ball. Later in that season, Tigers catcher Victor Martinez was injured in a game and Kelly caught six innings.
“I had so much fun [catching],” he said. “You’re involved in every pitch. You’re thinking along with the pitcher on how you’re trying to attack the hitter.”
Because he never knows where he might end up playing in any given game, Kelly has a pre-game ritual that prepares him for any eventuality. He starts out in the infield taking ground balls, then moves to an outfield spot to shag fly balls.
Although the Tigers made full use of Kelly, the Marlins — as a National League team — could find him even more valuable.
Kelly also sees the NL as a potential better fit.
LATOS PUSHED BACK
Mat Latos won’t be making his Grapefruit League debut for the Marlins on Monday, as scheduled. Instead, the Marlins have decided to have Latos throw a simulated game Monday against minor-leaguers.
Redmond was somewhat vague, saying Latos was a “little banged up” and the Marlins only want to “ease him into it.” Latos underwent surgery to repair torn cartilage in his left knee on Feb. 14, 2014, and did not make his first start for Cincinnati until mid-June. His season ended in early September due to a bone bruise on his pitching elbow.
Redmond said Latos is not dealing with any arm issues and has done all his bullpen work this spring.
“We just want to make sure he eases into it and make sure he’s healthy for the season — coming off his knee last year,” Redmond said. “He’s fine. We’re just being cautious with him and let him get back on the mound, control how many hitters and how many pitches he throws. He’s getting all his work in.”
Redmond said that if all goes well in the simulated game, “we’re hoping that everything feels good and the next step will be in a regular game.”
David Phelps will now get Monday’s start in Port St. Lucie when the Marlins face the New York Mets.
On another front, Redmond said shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria is dealing with a “tired shoulder” and likely won’t play next until Tuesday.
“We’re just keeping him back for a couple of days,” Redmond said. “It’s like a tired shoulder. We have the time to give him a couple of days off to make sure everything’s fine. He said he could go out and play if we needed him. It’s more important to get him 100 percent, and we have plenty of time to get him the at bats he needs to be ready for Opening Day. He’s just not throwing.”
▪ Making his first spring start on Sunday, Jarred Cosart turned in two sharp innings in the Marlins’ 5-2 loss to the Cardinals. Cosart retired all six batters he faced, striking out two.