Kelly easing back after Tommy John surgery

Kelly easing back after Tommy John surgery

JUPITER, Fla. -- Tommy John surgery isn't just for pitchers. Position players with ligament damage in their elbows may also have the procedure.

Marlins utility player Don Kelly is an example. The 36-year-old underwent the surgery last July 14, and nearly eight months later he is a non-roster invitee on the comeback trail.

Kelly has come up big in back-to-back contests for Miami.

In the seventh inning of Tuesday's 1-0 win over the Yankees at Roger Dean Stadium, he collected the Marlins' first hit of the game, a single to center, and he helped set up Chris Johnson's RBI single, which produced the lone run. Kelly added an RBI single in the fourth inning of Wednesday's 5-3 victory against the Cardinals.

Because of lost time, making the Opening Day roster will be a challenge, but with Kelly's experience, he could offer organizational depth at some point.

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"I'm still on a little program," Kelly said. "I'm feeling good, though. I'm still not full go every single day."

Formerly with the Tigers, Kelly also had an at-bat and played some third base on Sunday against Detroit in Miami's 9-2 loss at Lakeland.

"I'm getting in games and seeing how it responds," Kelly said. "There is nothing like game speed. You can go out there and take practice all you want, and do everything."

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Thus far, the arm has not been an issue.

Still, Kelly's throwing is being monitored. When he has had no-throw days, he will still do other activities.

"We've got to get him back to being strong and healthy again, that's the first thing because there are days you've got to still build his arm back up," manager Don Mattingly said. "He's obviously coming off Tommy John."

Kelly leaves game

Kelly dealt with bad luck in 2015. After making the club as a non-roster invitee, he appeared in just two games and had one at-bat before he fractured his finger while fielding a ground ball.

During his recovery, he developed arm troubles and eventually had Tommy John surgery performed by Dr. James Andrews.

"He's a guy who is very versatile," Mattingly said. "I talk about versatility a lot, so he's a guy who fits into that type of role. He can play infield, outfield. He's a guy who has been around. He's been on playoff teams, so he's a guy who gives you experience."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.