Sports

Tigers: Quintin Berry races into the big leagues

DETROIT — It makes sense for a guy like Quintin Berry, whose game is built on pure and unadulterated speed, that his first-stint in the big leagues began with ... well a bit of a speeding problem.

“I had to slow it down a little bit,” admitted the outfielder, who found himself speeding along the Ohio Turnpike, bound for Cleveland for his Major League Baseball debut after his May 23 call-up from Triple-A Toledo. “It was two hours, but it felt like it was taking me like eight hours to get there. It felt like forever. Yeah, I had to kind of take my foot off the gas pedal a couple times. Didn’t want any problems on the way down there.”

Thankfully for the Tigers, who brought him up when they finally admitted Austin Jackson’s strained abdominal muscle was not getting better, it’s the same speed he’s flashed in his 11 games with the big club.

The same speed he’d always shown in the minors.

And the same speed the Tigers had tried — and failed — to upgrade the team with in the offseason.

At this point, especially with three of the club’s starting-caliber outfielders either on the shelf or in the minors, does it make any sense to pump the brakes?

Not a bit, frankly.

For almost two weeks, the discussion has been what to do with Berry when Jackson proves he’s healthy.

Considering that Berry might be the only outfielder that the Tigers have right now who’s not either broken or underperforming, why would you send him down at all?

Right now, at this very moment, they need him. Continued...

“You guys are getting way ahead of yourself. Let’s not go there. We’ll just see how this plays out. We’ll see who is healthy, who is playing, who is doing good and who is not doing good,” said Leyland Friday, when the subject of Berry’s future came up.

“We’ve been playing short for quite a while.

“The main thing that we’re striving for is to get them healthy as quick as possible because on the next trip we can’t play short. We can’t have two or three extra guys the next time we go on the road because we go to National League cities where you have to pinch-hit and double-switch and make maneuvers. Our goal right now is to try and get everyone healthy. We’re hurting a little bit for a right-handed hitter, obviously. We thought (Ryan) Raburn was going to fill that bill, but he didn’t up to this point. So, we’re just trying to make due right now until we get it straightened out. It’s been one thing after another, but that’s all part of it. No excuse. Everyone has their problems.”

Yes, yes they do.

And while the Tigers have their share of injury problems everywhere on the squad, it’s hit nowhere harder than the outfield.

Jackson hasn’t played since May 16, when he exited a game against the Twins after straining an abdominal muscle against the Twins. You could argue that AJax was the Tigers’ most valuable offensive piece before his injury, ranking among the league leaders in nearly every statistical category, and having cut down on his own personal Kryptonite: the strikeout.

Then there’s Dirks, the second-year wunderkind who earned the ‘Dominican Hero’ moniker with his offseason exploits in the Dominican Winter League, success he carried over into spring training, then to the regular season. His elevation to the second spot in the lineup provided with Tigers with a solid 1-2-3-4 punch atop the batting order, but he missed 10 games in April with a gimpy hamstring, and hasn’t been in the Tigers’ starting lineup since Tuesday, thanks to a sore Achilles tendon.

While those two have been performing above expectations, the Tigers’ other outfielders haven’t exactly been knocking anyone’s socks off.

The Tigers insisted Delmon Young was their left fielder going into the season, after admittedly targeting left field and second base as the two spots where they might upgrade team speed with an offseason addition.

He’s only started twice in left field — both times in the last week — in the 27 games he’s played since returning from his MLB suspension, spending the bulk of his time at designated hitter, a move which Leyland admitted made the Tigers better. While he’s gotten hotter of late, the Tigers still came into Saturday’s game having gotten less from their DH position, in terms of run production, than two other teams in the American League. Continued...

Brennan Boesch, who has started 48 of the team’s 53 games in right field, is hitting 70 points below his first-half standard of his first two seasons, when he started hot before fizzling.

A notorious slow starter, Ryan Raburn — who’s continued to bounce between the infield and outfield — was optioned to the minors last week for a kick-start, after hitting 80 points below his already-anemic .214 career first-half average. Super-utility man Don Kelly came into Saturday’s start — when he was forced into the outfield (“Because I don’t have any players,” Leyland said) despite also being the emergency catcher — hitting .172, but just 5-for-42 (.119) over his previous 19 games.

Not exactly Murderers’ Row.

When Jackson gets back, that shouldn’t mean Berry is automatically gone.

Not with the way he’s played so far.

No reason the Tigers can’t platoon him in the corners against right-handed pitching, and employ him as a pinch-runner, optimizing his usefulness.

Hit him second or ninth. Let him steal bases — as he has in his first 10 games, when he’s racked up five, second on the team only behind Jackson’s six.

“I try to do everything I can. They need me to play first, I’ll play first. They need me to play short, I’ll play short. It doesn’t matter. I’m trying to show them everything I can, so I can stay as long as I possibly can,” joked Berry, who — to my knowledge — can’t play second base.

Working Berry into the OF rotation would allow Boesch and Young to split time at DH. And it would inject much-needed speed to a lineup that’s almost completely bereft of that, outside of Jackson.

“He’s giving us some energy, gave us some right off the bat. It’s great to see. Right now, he’s getting an opportunity, and right now he’s taking advantage of it,” Leyland said after Friday’s game, when Berry got a double and a triple off a tough lefty, New York’s CC Sabathia. “I think he’s given us a jolt, with his speed. But the speed only plays if you get on, and he’s gotten on.” Continued...

Hold your horses — or pull back on the reins, at least, for a moment.

Nobody’s getting a bronze plaque ready for Cooperstown. And nobody’s insinuating that — all things being equal and ideal — Berry would be one of this team’s top five outfielders.

He knew that, too.

“I was expecting to just be in the minor leagues. I wasn’t looking to make this team. I knew I wasn’t going to make this team. I was just trying to hang on as many weeks as I could, so I didn’t have to go to those four (minor league) fields down there,” Berry said of his spring in Tigertown, when he was trying to open eyes with a new organization.

“It was cool, because I never really played in Triple-A for very long, so I was excited to go to that next level already. So it wasn’t a big deal. I wasn’t upset or anything about it. Just glad I shined a little bit.”

And he’s continued to do that at the big-league level, for however long it lasts. He’s not looking over his shoulder, even though the clock could be ticking.

“It’s way easier (said than done). I had a couple bad games, and that kind of made me start thinking about it a little bit. But I’m trying to just take it one day at a time, like everybody says. Not put too much pressure on myself. Because it is what it is. I’m either going to be here, or I’m not. I can’t control that, so just keep playing. ... The more hits you get, the less you think about it, the more you can be at ease. The better games I have, the better sleep I get,” Berry said, admitting that Leyland hasn’t really discussed the future with him any more than he has the rest of us.

“No, he just tells me to keep playing, tells me to keep getting on base. I think he’s just kind of letting me play. He’s not putting any pressure on me, just letting me do what I can do. He just kind of lets me do my thing. Which is cool.”

No reason not to let him keep doing it until it stops working.

Right now, you have captured the proverbial lightning in a bottle, and you don’t let go of that, until it runs out.

Could he regress back to the career .260 hitter he’s been in five minor league seasons, with four different organizations now? Sure. It’s probably even likely.

It just hasn’t happened yet.

“I think (if) you’ve got a horse that’s running good, you let him run,” Leyland said.

Giddyup.

And don’t yank on the reins.

Email Matthew B. Mowery at matt.mowery@oakpress.com and follow him on Twitter @matthewbmowery. Text keyword “Tigers” to 22700 to get updates sent to your phone. Msg & data rates may apply. Text HELP for help. Text STOP to cancel.

 
DETROIT — It makes sense for a guy like Quintin Berry, whose game is built on pure and unadulterated speed, that his first-stint in the big leagues began with ... well a bit of a speeding problem.

“I had to slow it down a little bit,” admitted the outfielder, who found himself speeding along the Ohio Turnpike, bound for Cleveland for his Major League Baseball debut after his May 23 call-up from Triple-A Toledo. “It was two hours, but it felt like it was taking me like eight hours to get there. It felt like forever. Yeah, I had to kind of take my foot off the gas pedal a couple times. Didn’t want any problems on the way down there.”

Thankfully for the Tigers, who brought him up when they finally admitted Austin Jackson’s strained abdominal muscle was not getting better, it’s the same speed he’s flashed in his 11 games with the big club.

The same speed he’d always shown in the minors.

And the same speed the Tigers had tried — and failed — to upgrade the team with in the offseason.

At this point, especially with three of the club’s starting-caliber outfielders either on the shelf or in the minors, does it make any sense to pump the brakes?

Not a bit, frankly.

For almost two weeks, the discussion has been what to do with Berry when Jackson proves he’s healthy.

Considering that Berry might be the only outfielder that the Tigers have right now who’s not either broken or underperforming, why would you send him down at all?

Right now, at this very moment, they need him.

“You guys are getting way ahead of yourself. Let’s not go there. We’ll just see how this plays out. We’ll see who is healthy, who is playing, who is doing good and who is not doing good,” said Leyland Friday, when the subject of Berry’s future came up.

“We’ve been playing short for quite a while.

“The main thing that we’re striving for is to get them healthy as quick as possible because on the next trip we can’t play short. We can’t have two or three extra guys the next time we go on the road because we go to National League cities where you have to pinch-hit and double-switch and make maneuvers. Our goal right now is to try and get everyone healthy. We’re hurting a little bit for a right-handed hitter, obviously. We thought (Ryan) Raburn was going to fill that bill, but he didn’t up to this point. So, we’re just trying to make due right now until we get it straightened out. It’s been one thing after another, but that’s all part of it. No excuse. Everyone has their problems.”

Yes, yes they do.

And while the Tigers have their share of injury problems everywhere on the squad, it’s hit nowhere harder than the outfield.

Jackson hasn’t played since May 16, when he exited a game against the Twins after straining an abdominal muscle against the Twins. You could argue that AJax was the Tigers’ most valuable offensive piece before his injury, ranking among the league leaders in nearly every statistical category, and having cut down on his own personal Kryptonite: the strikeout.

Then there’s Dirks, the second-year wunderkind who earned the ‘Dominican Hero’ moniker with his offseason exploits in the Dominican Winter League, success he carried over into spring training, then to the regular season. His elevation to the second spot in the lineup provided with Tigers with a solid 1-2-3-4 punch atop the batting order, but he missed 10 games in April with a gimpy hamstring, and hasn’t been in the Tigers’ starting lineup since Tuesday, thanks to a sore Achilles tendon.

While those two have been performing above expectations, the Tigers’ other outfielders haven’t exactly been knocking anyone’s socks off.

The Tigers insisted Delmon Young was their left fielder going into the season, after admittedly targeting left field and second base as the two spots where they might upgrade team speed with an offseason addition.

He’s only started twice in left field — both times in the last week — in the 27 games he’s played since returning from his MLB suspension, spending the bulk of his time at designated hitter, a move which Leyland admitted made the Tigers better. While he’s gotten hotter of late, the Tigers still came into Saturday’s game having gotten less from their DH position, in terms of run production, than two other teams in the American League.

Brennan Boesch, who has started 48 of the team’s 53 games in right field, is hitting 70 points below his first-half standard of his first two seasons, when he started hot before fizzling.

A notorious slow starter, Ryan Raburn — who’s continued to bounce between the infield and outfield — was optioned to the minors last week for a kick-start, after hitting 80 points below his already-anemic .214 career first-half average. Super-utility man Don Kelly came into Saturday’s start — when he was forced into the outfield (“Because I don’t have any players,” Leyland said) despite also being the emergency catcher — hitting .172, but just 5-for-42 (.119) over his previous 19 games.

Not exactly Murderers’ Row.

When Jackson gets back, that shouldn’t mean Berry is automatically gone.

Not with the way he’s played so far.

No reason the Tigers can’t platoon him in the corners against right-handed pitching, and employ him as a pinch-runner, optimizing his usefulness.

Hit him second or ninth. Let him steal bases — as he has in his first 10 games, when he’s racked up five, second on the team only behind Jackson’s six.

“I try to do everything I can. They need me to play first, I’ll play first. They need me to play short, I’ll play short. It doesn’t matter. I’m trying to show them everything I can, so I can stay as long as I possibly can,” joked Berry, who — to my knowledge — can’t play second base.

Working Berry into the OF rotation would allow Boesch and Young to split time at DH. And it would inject much-needed speed to a lineup that’s almost completely bereft of that, outside of Jackson.

“He’s giving us some energy, gave us some right off the bat. It’s great to see. Right now, he’s getting an opportunity, and right now he’s taking advantage of it,” Leyland said after Friday’s game, when Berry got a double and a triple off a tough lefty, New York’s CC Sabathia. “I think he’s given us a jolt, with his speed. But the speed only plays if you get on, and he’s gotten on.”

Hold your horses — or pull back on the reins, at least, for a moment.

Nobody’s getting a bronze plaque ready for Cooperstown. And nobody’s insinuating that — all things being equal and ideal — Berry would be one of this team’s top five outfielders.

He knew that, too.

“I was expecting to just be in the minor leagues. I wasn’t looking to make this team. I knew I wasn’t going to make this team. I was just trying to hang on as many weeks as I could, so I didn’t have to go to those four (minor league) fields down there,” Berry said of his spring in Tigertown, when he was trying to open eyes with a new organization.

“It was cool, because I never really played in Triple-A for very long, so I was excited to go to that next level already. So it wasn’t a big deal. I wasn’t upset or anything about it. Just glad I shined a little bit.”

And he’s continued to do that at the big-league level, for however long it lasts. He’s not looking over his shoulder, even though the clock could be ticking.

“It’s way easier (said than done). I had a couple bad games, and that kind of made me start thinking about it a little bit. But I’m trying to just take it one day at a time, like everybody says. Not put too much pressure on myself. Because it is what it is. I’m either going to be here, or I’m not. I can’t control that, so just keep playing. ... The more hits you get, the less you think about it, the more you can be at ease. The better games I have, the better sleep I get,” Berry said, admitting that Leyland hasn’t really discussed the future with him any more than he has the rest of us.

“No, he just tells me to keep playing, tells me to keep getting on base. I think he’s just kind of letting me play. He’s not putting any pressure on me, just letting me do what I can do. He just kind of lets me do my thing. Which is cool.”

No reason not to let him keep doing it until it stops working.

Right now, you have captured the proverbial lightning in a bottle, and you don’t let go of that, until it runs out.

Could he regress back to the career .260 hitter he’s been in five minor league seasons, with four different organizations now? Sure. It’s probably even likely.

It just hasn’t happened yet.

“I think (if) you’ve got a horse that’s running good, you let him run,” Leyland said.

Giddyup.

And don’t yank on the reins.

Email Matthew B. Mowery at matt.mowery@oakpress.com and follow him on Twitter @matthewbmowery. Text keyword “Tigers” to 22700 to get updates sent to your phone. Msg & data rates may apply. Text HELP for help. Text STOP to cancel.

 

Detroit Sports By Bleacher Report


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