DETROIT -- Don Kelly looked around at the crowd of media around his locker with sad faces on and said, "Guys, this isn't a funeral."
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."
Dirks activated, joins Tigers' revamped lineup
DETROIT -- A little more than two months after Andy Dirks went down with what was originally expected to be a day-to-day injury to his right Achilles tendon, the Tigers activated him from the 15-day disabled list on Friday. He returns to an outfield that looks a lot different than when he left.
His return is about to change it again.
After all the questions about how manager Jim Leyland could get Dirks and Quintin Berry into the same lineup, Leyland showed how on Friday. With sidearming right-hander Justin Masterson on the mound for Cleveland, Dirks started in right field, Brennan Boesch moved to designated hitter, and Delmon Young took a spot on the bench.
It was Leyland's way of loading up his lineup with left-handed hitters. It won't be that way against all right-handers, but it's a sign that Leyland is going to play matchups instead of sticking with a regular lineup.
Leyland had already been thinking about moving up Boesch to the fifth spot behind Prince Fielder and moving Young down, something he tried out Wednesday in Boston. With Young no longer guaranteed starts every day, he's sticking with that plan. Boesch batted fifth on Friday, with Dirks right behind him.
It goes against the original plan of alternating lefties and righties where possible, but Leyland believes the benefits of Boesch outweigh the negatives of letting teams bring in a lefty reliever to face Fielder and Boesch back-to-back.
"I don't think it has anything necessarily to do with the fifth or sixth spot," Leyland said. "I'm sticking another lefty behind Prince against right-handed pitching. I've been thinking about that for a while. But it's a little bit more complicated than people think."
Guillen looks back on time with Tigers fondly
DETROIT -- Carlos Guillen became a legend in eight seasons with the Tigers. Yet he admitted for the first time on Friday that he really wasn't sure he wanted to come here.
When the Mariners traded him before the 2004 season, he was going to a Tigers club that had just lost 119 games and didn't have a long history with Venezuelan players. He nearly joined the Indians earlier that offseason, but Omar Vizquel, the player he was being traded for, failed his physical.
"The first moment when they traded me, I didn't want to come here," Guillen said Friday. "The scout who signed me to play professional baseball, [Andres Reina], he called me and said, 'You want to play for Dave Dombrowski and Alan Trammell. They're good. I bet you they're going to do their best to turn around the team.' It made me feel different. ...
"I came here not to teach everybody, because they knew how to play baseball, but trying to put everybody on the same page, to believe in ourselves. That's what I learned when I played in Seattle, because I was the younger guy and Ken Griffey Jr., Alex [Rodriguez] and Edgar [Martinez] were my teachers. I tried to do the things that they did for me."
The rest is history. The Tigers went from 43-119 in 2003 to the World Series in '06 to perennial contenders, and Guillen was a big part of it. Now retired, Guillen returned to Comerica Park on Friday as the guest of honor for the team's annual Fiesta Tigres luncheon. He'll be honored in a pregame ceremony on Saturday for his induction into the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame.
It's the Tigers' way of honoring Guillen for the first time since he retired from baseball this past spring. Asked what he misses about playing the game, Guillen said, "Everything."
"I still miss baseball," Guillen said. "I still miss going to the ballpark."
Guillen has stayed involved in the game. He runs an academy near his hometown of Maracay, Venezuela, that now has about three dozen players trying to prepare for professional careers, and he said he has been approached by Venezuela's baseball federation to play a role nationally, possibly in next spring's World Baseball Classic. He isn't ready to coach yet, preferring to stay at home with his kids, but he didn't rule it out.
The Tigers placed left-handed reliever Daniel Schlereth on an injury rehab assignment with Class A Lakeland on Friday. Schlereth hasn't pitched since April 20 due to left shoulder tendinitis, and he spent most of the past month in Lakeland on a workout and throwing program to build strength. He can spend up to 30 days on rehab, which would allow the Tigers to bring him back as a September callup once rosters expand.
Miguel Cabrera and Doug Fister were honored as the Tigers' Player and Pitcher of the Month for July, as voted on by media members. Cabrera battied .344 for the month with nine home runs and 23 RBIs -- both third-best among AL hitters -- in 26 games. Fister went 4-2 with a 3.60 ERA and 37 strikeouts over 40 innings.
The Tigers transferred Al Alburquerque's Minor League rehab assignment from Class A Lakeland to Triple-A Toledo on Friday, a milepost on his road back to the Tigers' bullpen after elbow surgery last December. He'll pitch for the Mud Hens on Saturday. Alburquerque gave up two runs on three hits in his first rehab appearance for the Flying Tigers, then tossed 2 2/3 scoreless innings on two hits after that. Nine of the 10 outs he recorded in Lakeland were strikeouts.