Jim Leyland’s high hopes for Don Kelly

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.173-hitting Don Kelly is playing fist base and batting sixth for the Tigers on Tuesday night, and manager Jim Leyland is way optimistic:

“I’m hoping for Donnie Kelly to maybe get one hit and one RBI,” Leyland said. “If he does that, I’ll be thrilled.”

Of course, it would be bucking the odds a bit. Kelly has started 159 games as a big leaguer and had a hit and an RBI in 39 of them, which works out to 24.5 percent of the time.

Tonight’s start will be Kelly’s first since he rejoined the Tigers over the weekend. After three years of continuous service, he was finally dropped from Detroit’s roster last month after hitting .173/.265/.240 with one homer and seven RBI in 104 at-bats this year. He’s a lifetime .230/.282/.345 hitter.

Rakuten Golden Eagles sign Jabari Blash

Jabari Blash
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Former Angels outfielder Jabari Blash has signed a one-year deal with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Nippon Professional Baseball, the team announced Friday. Per the Japan Times, the deal is said to be worth around $1.06 million. Blash was released from his contract with the Angels at the end of November.

The 29-year-old outfielder has had a rough go of it in the majors, where he failed to duplicate the promising results he delivered in the minors. While he consistently batted above .250 with 20-30 home runs per season at the Double- and Triple-A level, he petered out in back-to-back gigs with the Padres and Angels and slumped toward a .103/.200/.128 finish across 45 PA for Anaheim in 2018.

The hope, of course, is that the environment in NPB will help him get a better handle on his issues at the plate — in a best case scenario, resulting in a full-scale transformation that could make him more marketable to MLB teams in the future. To that end, Blash expects to be utilized as a cleanup batter in the Eagles’ lineup and will focus on assisting the club as they make a run toward the Japan Series.