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Hens' Kelly in midst of batting chase

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Hens' Kelly in midst of batting chase

BY JOHN WAGNER BLADE SPORTS WRITER

While the Mud Hens find themselves on the outside of the playoff race, Don Kelly finds himself in the middle of a different race.

Kelly has a shot at winning the International League's batting title with his .328 average. While he entered play last night in fourth place in the race, he is within striking distance of the .336 mark of league leader Kevin Russo of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

"I really don't concern myself with [the batting race] too much," Kelly said. "I just try to keep the same approach every day. I try to stay even; not get too high if I go 4-for-4 or get too low if I go 0-for-4."

This is the first batting race for the 29-year-old Kelly, whose best seasons at the plate were a .317 average for Single-A Lakeland in 2003 and a .340 mark for Double-A Erie two years later.

However, he did not have enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting crown in either season.

"Back in 2003 and 2005 I had pretty good years," he said. "But this is one of my better years because I've taken what I've learned through the years, and I've had it reinforced by [hitting coach Leon] 'Bull' Durham and [manager Larry Parrish].

"I understand what I have to do to get myself back where I need to be. In years past, I might have changed something I didn't need to change. I think I'm a lot smarter in knowing what kind of player I am and what I need to do to succeed."

Parrish said Kelly is a different player from the one who hit .250 for the Hens in 2005 and .228 here the following year.

"He's never hit the ball with the authority he has this year," Parrish said. "He's dangerous at the plate - he can drive a ball into the gaps, hit the ball out of the park, drive in runs. He has matured a lot as a hitter.

"And he has opened a lot of eyes around baseball. He's proven that he could be a versatile player at the next level."

NO BROTHERLY LOVE: Kelly and Indianapolis 3B Neil Walker are waging a friendly battle in this series. Kelly and Walker are brothers-in-law, as Kelly married Walker's sister, Carrie.

"He stole a couple of hits from me earlier in the year in Indianapolis, so he'd better not hit the ball towards me," Kelly warned, then laughed.

TASTES LIKE CHICKEN: Indianapolis 1B-OF Brian Myrow has feasted on Mud Hens pitching this season.

Myrow began the season with Charlotte and in six games went 8-for-17 (.471) with a pair of home runs, six RBIs and five runs scored.

He then left the Knights and signed with Indianapolis in late June, and he's continued his hot hitting against Toledo.

Entering last night's contest Myrow had 14 hits in 30 at-bats (.467) with a homer, six RBIs and seven runs in 10 games with the Indians.

For the season, Myrow has batted .468 against the Hens with three homers, 12 RBIs and 12 runs in 16 games.

CENTER OF ATTENTION: OF Wilkin Ramirez started in centerfield for the first time in his career in Thursday's game against the Indians.

While Ramirez shifted back to left Friday, Parrish said Ramirez will play center again before the season ends.

Ramirez originally was a third baseman before moving to the outfield in 2007. He had played only left field in pro ball before Thursday.

BOBBLE RAKE? Mud Hens groundskeeper Jake Tyler will be honored with a bobblehead that will be distributed before Thursday's game.

"I thought it was kind of exciting," Tyler admitted. "It really started kicking-in when 106 boxes of bobbleheads came in with my name on them.

"But I felt badly, too, because there are so many other people who work hard around here and deserve one."

Tyler was named the IL's sports turf manager of the year each of the past three seasons, and was the top sports turf manager in Triple-A baseball in 2006-07.

Contact John Wagner at:

jwagner@theblade.com or 419-724-6481.

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