Reporting Jeff Riger
Tigers outfielder Quintin Berry is making it really tough for skipper Jim Leyland to keep his name out of the lineup. Since being called up to the big leagues, Berry is hitting .333 with nine stolen bases and an OPS. of .845. The bottom line is no one could have ever expected this from the 27-year-old career minor leaguer.
On Sunday, Berry was given his first start in four games and he made it pretty clear that he deserves many more. The San Diego native went 5 for 5 in a game against the Rockies and stole a base as well. And with Andy Dirks continuing to miss time due to an Achilles injury, you would think that Berry would be an automatic for Leyland’s lineup every single night.
That however seems to NOT be the case.
I asked Leyland after Sunday’s game if Berry was making it tough for him to not play the outfielder and his response was “not really, we’ll have the best lineup on the field, believe me, trust me.” Of course the skipper did repeat each word that he said a couple of times for emphasis as well. So now what? Could Leyland really not pencil in Berry to play every day?
The answer is obvious: Of course not.
I expect Berry to be out there everyday until his play shows he shouldn’t be there or until Dirks comes back. Leyland wants Ryan Raburn to be in the lineup regularly it seems because he is a right-handed hitter with pop and the Tigers lack that element right now but the same should be said for Berry. Detroit doesn’t have another player who can get on base, steal the next one and make an opposing pitcher stress during it all. Plus he has already proven that he is the second best outfielder on this team next to Austin Jackson. If Leyland wants to use Raburn that badly, he can play him at second base, the other options there have not performed either.
Recently Leyland has played Raburn in left against left-handed pitching because Berry is a lefty but that should not matter either. This season, in 23 games Berry has smoked right-handed pitching at a .357 clip and has been solid against leftys hitting .273. The 27-year-old also hits almost .300 against left-handed starters and if you start him that is who he will get the majority of his bats against.
There are so many scenarios in where Berry sees a starting position…
Berry plays left, Delmon Young is the DH
Berry plays right and Brennan Boesch is the DH and Young, who is struggling doesn’t play
Berry plays centerfield when Austin Jackson needs a day off
There is no good reason Berry should not be out there every day. I think this is obvious! He has to play!
As for Berry himself, he is not focusing on the playing time that he gets; instead he is just happy to be in the show.
“Whatever they want me to do, I’m happy with it as long as I just can stay here” said Berry.
As for why Berry is having success at the MLB level when before he could never even get so much as a call up, luck could be the reason. “Getting to the big leagues is one of those things where you have to be in the right place at the right time” Berry said. He went on to say “When I signed here I had opportunity and I was able to capitalize on it.” Berry had no answer as to why he is hitting almost 50 points better at the pro level than he ever did in the minors. He also swears that nothing has changed for him. He did admit he may have figured himself out more, thus he knows what he is capable of and is not trying to do too much like he may have in years past.
Whatever the basis for Berry’s success is really doesn’t matter. Tigers fans have to hope it continues, and on the field as an everyday starter.
Listen to the entire Quintin Berry interview below after he recorded his first ever five-hit game.