This year, the Detroit Tigers offense is predicated on Austin Jackson leading off with a double, and the big boppers (a la Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder) hitting home runs. No bunting, no stealing bases, heck, don’t even mention the word “single”. It’s all about extra-base hits and home runs.
However, the Tigers’ bats have scuffled out of the gate, mostly due to their frustrating inability to get hits with runners in scoring position.
Compounding their struggles as of late is the unfortunate event of Austin Jacksongoing down with an abdominal strain last week, and after one bad batting practice session before the Tigers’ big series in Cleveland, was shelved on the 15-day DL.
After getting swept in Cleveland, many Tigers fans and national media figures were pulling their hair out, wondering why the Tigers offense was so sluggish. This media uproar overshadowed a telling roster move by Detroit—calling up Minor League-speedster Quintin Berry.
Berry, a San Diego native, undoubtedly learned a thing or two about being a big league outfielder under the tutelage of his college coach, Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, at San Diego State University.
After college, Berry was drafted in the 5th round of the 2006 Draft by the Philadelphia Phillies. He bounced around the farm systems of the Padres, Mets, and Reds, before finding his way into the Detroit system. Through his journey in the Minors, Berry managed to steal 261 bases in 692 Minor League games.
Berry had a fantastic spring in the big league camp, hitting .333 in 17 games before being cut when Detroit whittled down their roster to 32 in late March. The most telling asset, though, in his Grapefruit League appearances was his speed.
So, Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski and Manager Jim Leyland, hoping to inject some life in their ballclub, gave the leadoff spot to Berry after Jackson, who was having a heck of a year (.331 AVG, 4 HR, 17 RBI), went down with the aforementioned injury.
And what a decision it turned out to be. Berry is hitting .348 with two doubles and two RBI in his first six games, not to mention being the first Tiger since 1918 to have a hit in his first five games in the Major Leagues.
He also is credited with jumpstarting the Tigers’ lifeless offense, adding three steals and finding his way on base three times via walks, in addition to scoring six runs.
This infusion of speed and his smart approach at the plate propelled Detroit to its first back-to-back wins since April 18, and helped complete the sweep of the weekend series against the Twins.
Detroit faces quite a dilemma once Jackson returns from the DL (which could be as early as this coming Friday). How could they send down Berry and keep Ryan Raburn (.151 AVG, 1 HR, 7 RBI) and Don Kelly (.164 ABG, O HR, 5 RBI) on the roster? We’ll see what Leyland and Co. has cooked up by the end of this week.