DETROIT -- Give Tigers manager Jim Leyland credit: Even he knows mentioning Don Kelly is going to get a reaction.
"People get on me when I talk about Don Kelly," Leyland said Monday morning.
That said, he was talking about Don Kelly when he talked about their ability to keep winning without Austin Jackson. Moreover, they've gotten a decent amount of production out of their center fielders since Jackson went on the DL a couple weeks ago.
Kelly entered Monday batting 6-for-30 (.200) as a center fielder, but with two homers and five RBIs. Avisail Garcia is 3-for-12 with a homer and three RBIs in center field. Defensively, they've held their own, though their range doesn't come close to the territory Jackson covers.
"We've lucked out so far with our center-field situation," Leyland said. "I know fans get tired of me talking about it, but Kelly's done a good job in center field. Don't get me wrong, he's not a great center fielder, but he's done a very credible job filling in, very credible. And Garcia. I've been able to slide Dirks over there. We've been lucky."
For Kelly, whose utility has been at the top of his Major League resume, his transition to a position he has barely played over the years has been decent.
"Kelly's a perfect 25th player. That's what he is," Leyland said. "Now, if you can find one better, you can take him. But what do you want? He plays first, he plays third, he plays center. He eats right. He sleeps right. He's here to play every day. He does everything that you want out of that guy. He is what he is. I'm willing to accept that."
Tigers stand with veterans to celebrate Memorial Day
DETROIT -- On a day Major League Baseball recognized veterans and service members as part of Memorial Day festivities, the Tigers not only recognized them, they stood with them.
As veterans and active members of the various armed services lined the infield before a sellout crowd at Comerica Park, players and coaches from the Tigers and Pirates were alongside them, thanking them for their service and standing for the national anthem. It was a simple gesture during pregame ceremonies.
Players and coaches were dressed in special uniforms for the occasion, with a camouflage design on the hats and camouflage colors filling in letters and numbers on their uniforms. The jerseys are being sold online, with all net proceeds donated to the Welcome Back Veterans program.
First Lieutenant Robert McLean of the Michigan Air National Guard delivered the game ball to the mound beforehand. Staff Sergeant Amy Gould of the 126 Army Band of the Michigan Army National Guard performed the anthem.
The Tigers donated 1,500 tickets to local members and veterans of the Armed Forces to attend the game with their families.
Leyland, Tigers seeing big things in Garcia's future
DETROIT -- This is a glimpse of the Avisail Garcia the Tigers believe will emerge with time.
This is the Avisail Garcia that many Tigers official believe still needs time and seasoning to emerge.
A week and a half after Garcia hit his first Major League home run, he reached down for a sixth-inning curveball on Sunday and lined it to the left-field fence for a three-run triple that broke open the game in the sixth inning. He was pinch-hitting, but he turned out a tenacious seven-pitch at-bat that few thought possible when he had a terrible walk-to-strikeout ratio as a teenager in the low levels of the Tigers farm system a few years back.
"That's usually the last thing to develop -- game power," manager Jim Leyland said.
He has six strikeouts and no walks in 19 plate appearances since making the jump from Triple-A Toledo.
"He hit up here last year like he didn't want to strike out," Leyland said. "But it's OK to strike out. He'll learn that as he goes on. And when he strikes out a little bit, he'll probably hit with more power as well. I'm not preaching it's good to strike out, but I am preaching that when you're a stronger guy that's got power, you're going to strike out some."
That's a process that will likely happen in a Mud Hens jersey, not in the big leagues. And that's something Leyland is preaching: The learning process won't go on in the big leagues.
"This kid's a big-time prospect, and that's just what he is right now," Leyland said. "We love him. I said three or four years ago I thought he was the best prospect in the organization.
"He's got a chance to be the total package, because he can run, he can throw, he can hit -- and we think he's going to hit with power. He's a tools guy that's got a lot of tools."
Garcia is helping fill the void of the injured Austin Jackson, whose trip to the disabled list led to Garcia's promotion. Still, Leyland is making it clear that Garcia is an injury fill-in, not a Major League regular yet -- not even close. Once Jackson returns, the Tigers want Garcia back in Toledo.
On a team trying to build a contender, maybe it would. On a team trying to win now with enough outfielders as it is, it's not happening yet.
"He needs to be at Triple-A getting 500 at-bats," Leyland said. "We brought him right now because it was an emergency situation. We were looking for a right-handed hitter, and he was the obvious guy. But the best thing for him right now is to get at-bats in Toledo."
Leyland compliments Peralta as 'an old shoe'
DETROIT -- The best description of Placido Polanco's Tigers tenure came from his manager, Jim Leyland, who compared him to an old shoe. He has used the phrase sparingly for players since, but he pulled it out for his shortstop.
"This guy's like an old shoe," Leyland said of Jhonny Peralta on Monday morning.
Considering Peralta has been a Tiger since the summer of 2010, it's an odd time for it. But his everyday production so far this year, and his recent consistency, have fit the description Leyland is trying to get.
So, too, is his preparation.
"Jhonny Peralta is one of the most regimented players I've ever seen," Leyland said. "He prepares as well as any player I've ever had."
Tigers present Pirates' Inge championship ring
DETROIT -- Thirteen months have passed since Brandon Inge's Tiger tenure ended, but his time in Detroit is still in people's memory. His old boss hasn't forgotten, either.
While the Pirates prepared for Monday's game, Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski stopped in for a visit. He had an American League championship ring to present to Inge, who played nine games as a Tiger last season before he was released.
Inge greatly appreciated the gesture.
The reception from fans as he stepped to the plate in the second inning showed fans haven't forgotten. His first at-bat at Comerica Park as a visiting player came with mostly cheers.
Inge spent most of last season with Oakland after the Tigers released him in late April, but was on the disabled list by the time the A's came to Detroit in September. He underwent shoulder surgery in mid-September and missed the postseason.