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7/22/2014 9:43 P.M. ET

Kelly named Tigers' Heart and Hustle Award winner

PHOENIX -- The Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association announced utility player Don Kelly as the Tigers' 2014 Heart and Hustle Award winner on Tuesday.

The honor, given out to a member of each team, rewards players who show passion for baseball and who the association believes best displays the values, spirit and tradition of baseball.

"When you get recognition like that, it's nice," Kelly said.

The honor doesn't surprise his manager, Brad Ausmus.

"He hasn't have to be told to be ready," he said. "He's always ready, and he's always prepared and he obviously has a lot of versatility.

"I'm not sure if [fans] do or don't [appreciate his role], but it's a very important role. Gives you a lot of flexibility at the end of games. ... It's almost like an insurance policy. He can play anywhere if something happens unexpected."

All 30 teams' nominees will be voted on by fans, and an overall winner will be announced on Nov. 18 at the 15th Annual Legends for Youth Dinner in New York City.

Kelly was the Tigers' nominee in 2013, and past Tigers nominees include Austin Jackson, Alex Avila, Brandon Inge, Curtis Granderson and Carlos Guillen.

Right fielder Torii Hunter won the overall award while he was with the Angels in 2011, and he has been nominated five times by clubs.

"Every day, I try to go out and play the game the right way," Kelly said. "I love playing the game. I play it with passion and leave everything out on the field. Really, that's all you can do. It's a great game to play and I love playing it."

Ausmus voices respect for HOF inductee La Russa

PHOENIX -- Brad Ausmus is no stranger to soon-to-be Hall of Famer Tony La Russa.

The current Tigers manager and former A's and Cardinals skipper saw each other plenty of times from opposing dugouts while La Russa still ran the Cardinals and Ausmus was playing for the division-rival Astros.

"Just because of the nature of the Cardinal-Astro civil rivalry, I knew Tony for years," Ausmus said. "Not personally, but [I] always had interaction with him. Being in the same division, we played against each other a lot. We played in the playoffs a lot."

The one meeting that stuck out to Ausmus came when La Russa, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday in Cooperstown, N.Y., sent him a note after Ausmus' Astros defeated the Cardinals in the 2005 National League Championship Series.

"The clubhouse guy came over into our celebration and handed me a piece of paper, and it was a note from Tony saying, 'Congratulations, Brad,'" Ausmus said. "I still have it. I kept it.

"He had just lost the NLCS, and he took the time. I know he sent one to Jeff Bagwell and [Craig] Biggio and myself -- individual ones."

Ausmus said he has always liked the way La Russa's teams played.

"They played the game the right way and they were respectful of the other team," Ausmus said. "There wasn't a lot of pomp and circumstance. They just played baseball."

La Russa is currently helping run the D-backs in the front office as the club's chief baseball officer, a position Ausmus said he wasn't surprised La Russa took, adding that it was the "logical next step."

VerHagen placed on Triple-A DL with ailing back

PHOENIX -- After making his Major League debut in a spot start for the Tigers on Saturday, Drew VerHagen was placed on Triple-A Toledo's disabled list on Tuesday.

VerHagen has been dealing with back issues, and when he was sent back down to the Minor Leagues it was determined he would miss at least one start, so he was placed on the seven-day DL with what is being called a lower back strain.

Tigers head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said VerHagen would have an MRI and a bone scan on Wednesday, and the results would be sent to Dr. Tom Tolli in St. Petersburg, Fla., to determine the severity of the injury.

"He's had it off and on during his career," Rand said. "But his left side and lower back pain was bothering him to the point where he was going to miss a start."

In his one start with the Tigers, VerHagen went five innings against the Indians and gave up three runs on five hits. The 23-year-old was a fourth-round pick out of Vanderbilt in 2012.

Ausmus credits lineup protection for Miggy's big hit

PHOENIX -- Pitching to Miguel Cabrera with the game on the line usually is not a great decision. It certainly didn't pay off for the D-backs on Monday.

With Austin Jackson on third and first base open, D-backs pitcher Randall Delgado pitched to Cabrera with the score tied at 3 in the top of the seventh.

Cabrera made Delgado pay, roping a pitch more than 400 feet from home plate off the railing in front of the center-field concourse. The ball stayed in play and Cabrera was thrown out trying to reach second. The play was confirmed following a replay, but the damage was done. The Tigers scored the eventual game-winning run.

Manager Brad Ausmus said Tuesday that he wasn't surprised Cabrera got a pitch to hit, and at least partially attributed it to having Victor Martinez hit behind the Tigers' reigning MVP.

"I would have been surprised if they walked Miggy," Ausmus said. "Victor's very dangerous, and you're adding a potential other run at first base."

Walking Cabrera intentionally wouldn't exactly be unprecedented. He's drawn 185 intentional free passes in his career -- good for third most among active players.

"If they do walk him, I'm fine with that, too," Ausmus said.

Adam Lichtenstein is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.