Manager Jim Leyland had a surprise for Detroit outfielder Don Kelly when they met up at Wednesday night's Mud Hens/Tigers winter fan event at Fifth Third Field.
When spring training opens, Kelly is going to spend some time wearing catcher's gear and working with coach Gene Lamont.
"I know he'll do it," Leyland said, "because when we walked in tonight I said, 'you know, this really is a beautiful stadium.' And Don said, 'yeah, but I don't ever want to play here again.' He wants to stay in the big leagues and this is a way he can help us this year on an emergency basis."
Kelly just smiled and said, "I'd like to know what constitutes an emergency. I guess [Leyland] knows I can do it in a pinch because I was the emergency guy with Pittsburgh in 2007. So I can put the mask on."
Victor Martinez, a catcher, was the Tigers' big off-season free agent acquisition, but he was signed mostly for his left-handed bat and will be used often as a designated hitter. The thought is Alex Avila will get considerable time behind the plate.
"I think our roster is versatile, but one thing that could be a little sticky is what happens if we [pinch] run for Alex late in a game?" Leyland said. "Who do we catch then? Do we take the DH off Victor and put the pitcher in the batting order, which doesn't happen much in our league?
"So, we need to find somebody like Kelly who can catch a little in a pinch."
Leyland said he would not call on Brandon Inge, the team's onetime catcher before moving to third base.
"I don't want to open that can of worms," the manager said. "I don't want to risk anything with our starting third baseman."
Whatever the decision, Patrick Leyland will not be a candidate for the role.
The manager's son, who was taken by the Tigers in the eighth round of the 2010 amateur draft, got 146 at-bats last summer in the Gulf Coast rookie league and is a nonroster invitee to spring training.
"It's not going to be a long stay," Leyland said of his son's time in the major league camp. "There are always a lot of nonroster catchers invited because of how many pitchers we bring in. It'll be a good experience for him, that's all."
But what if Patrick has a great spring?
"I just hope his dad has a great spring," Jim Leyland said.