DETROIT -- With Miguel Cabrera's 910 feet worth of home runs, Jose Valverde's ninth-inning issues and Omir Santos's walk-off sacrifice fly, Don Kelly's homer-robbing play in the fourth inning of Saturday's 4-3 Tigers win over the Yankees didn't get nearly as much credit as it deserved, manager Jim Leyland said.
"I'm glad I had a tall left fielder for that one play last night," Leyland said. "That went unnoticed -- that nobody talked about after the game. It saved a home run."
Kelly drifted back to the wall on a high fly ball from first baseman Mark Teixeira, jumped and extended his glove just over the wall to pull back what would've been a go-ahead home run. Instead, the game remained scoreless.
"When you have a chance to prevent a run, and in dramatic fashion like that, it was a lot of fun to the crowd and it really, I think, got us going a little bit," Kelly said. "Then Miggy comes up and hits a moonshot to center, and it really got us rolling."
With the Tigers struggling, questions have come up about which players might be expendable so that the team can go to the farm system and possibly find a spark. However, Leyland said those critics aren't seeing the value in a guy like Kelly.
The 6-foot-4, 32-year-old is arguably the most versatile fielder on the team. Kelly has five gloves sitting above his locker -- one each for first base, third base, middle infield, outfield and a catcher's mitt. With the Tigers' injuries, that versatility is especially important.
"Don Kelly is a real effective player for us that hasn't hit too good for us so far this year," Leyland said. "But when we get rolling, Donny Kelly fits right into the piece. I think you saw last night. He got a hit, scored a run, jumped over the fence [and] caught a ball. We won the game because [Cabrera] hit two out of sight and we pitched pretty good and a guy like Kelly made his contributions."
Moving Dirks to DL, Tigers gain flexibility
DETROIT -- The Tigers entered Sunday's series finale against the Yankees short-handed, but manager Jim Leyland had a little more flexibility with his lineup, as outfielder Andy Dirks was placed on the 15-day disabled list and outfielder Matt Young's contract was purchased from Triple-A Toledo.
Dirks had been dealing with right Achilles tendinitis since Detroit's series at Boston and had missed four consecutive games. The 26-year-old underwent an MRI exam and X-rays on Friday, and the results revealed bursitis and tendinitis, which Dirks said was nothing unexpected. Dirks had been feeling better the past two days, but the tendon apparently wasn't healing quickly enough.
After Dirks was evaluated on Sunday morning, the outfielder and Tigers head athletic trainer Kevin Rand walked into Leyland's office, where the decision was likely made.
Young, who is batting .259 with 16 RBIs and 12 stolen bases in 51 games for the Mud Hens, was removed from Friday night's game and was reportedly seen hugging teammates.
Although the Tigers lose a hitter in Dirks who was batting .328, the move at least gives Leyland two players available off the bench and prevents the skipper from having to do anything drastic, like put Danny Worth in the outfield.
With Ramon Santiago pinch-hitting for Don Kelly in the bottom of the ninth inning during Saturday night's 4-3 walk-off win, Worth was preparing to start the 10th inning in left field, where he hasn't roamed since playing eight games there during his freshman year at Pepperdine.
"Coach told me, 'I've got to get you in the lineup somehow,'" Worth said. "I might go out in BP now for fly balls once a week. That's going to be in the back of my mind now."
Leyland hopes to use Benoit on Tuesday
DETROIT -- First, catcher Alex Avila wakes up with unexpected right hamstring tightness that held him out of the Tigers' starting lineup for a second straight game. Now, reliever Joaquin Benoit's right forearm is hurting because of a last-second -- and perhaps late -- timeout call on Saturday night.
Benoit was just about to deliver a pitch in the seventh inning when Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez yelled for time and home-plate umpire Bob Davidson quickly obliged. Having already been in motion, Benoit couldn't hold back his throw and sent the ball into the netting behind home plate.
It seemed harmless, but manager Jim Leyland said after Saturday's 4-3 win that the right-hander was scheduled to pitch the eighth inning but couldn't.
"[I] was more [than] a little concerned [as to] how I would feel resting it and then coming back out," Benoit said. "I [didn't know] if I would aggravate it more. I think it was more trying to save that and see what happened today."
Benoit said on Sunday that he was still sore, but he wasn't concerned the pain would keep him out for long. Leyland said Benoit likely wouldn't be available for Sunday's game, but he was optimistic the right-hander could return on Tuesday, when the Tigers will open up a three-game home series against Cleveland.
"I think hopefully what this is going to amount to is off today, and with the day off [Monday], he'll be fine," Leyland said.
Leyland said that Austin Jackson is still progressing but would not play on Sunday and likely wouldn't be available on Tuesday.
You know a team's injury situation is bad when the manager is considering which pitchers he could use in the field if the situation calls for it. Leyland said it almost came to that on Saturday night, and relief pitcher Brayan Villarreal would've been the first choice.
"He can play short, third, outfield [and] he said he can hit," Leyland said of Villarreal. "I don't know if he could or not -- he probably can't hit me if I ran through there -- but he's athletic. He was the guy I was going to use last night if something happened."
Anthony Odoardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.