When Jackson returns, Berry's status unknown

When Jackson returns, Berry's status unknown

When Jackson returns, Berry's status unknown
BOSTON -- No one knows how long Quintin Berry can keep up this kind of hitting. The Tigers, however, are ready to ride his hot bat while they can. Whether that keeps him on the club after Austin Jackson's expected return Friday is the bigger question.

Berry made history by becoming the first Tiger since at least 1918 to hit safely in his first five Major League games. The longer-term question is whether he can make a spot for himself on the roster after Jackson returns to take over everyday duties in center field.

The more he hits, the better he helps his case. Yet it's his speed once he gets onto the bases that gives the Tigers a facet they lack without him.

"He's been a little nice juice for us," manager Jim Leyland said Monday morning.

That said, the longer-term decision has to include more than the last five games. If Berry had hit like this consistently, he would not have been just finding a home at Triple-A this year at age 27. The Tigers have to determine whether he's simply a hitter in a hot stretch while he's getting a shot, or whether he has found something as a hitter that was missing for the first six years of his pro career.

Even this year, Berry averaged more than a strikeout a game at Triple-A Toledo, and he fanned six times through his first five games with Detroit. More than half of the balls he put in play went for base hits.

Despite the strikeouts, Berry entered Monday batting 3-for-12 in two-strike counts.

Berry does not play the infield, so if the Tigers are going to forge even a part-time role for him, it would have to be in one of the corner spots. Jackson will play every day when he's ready, though Leyland said he wants to make sure Jackson is 100 percent healthy when he does return.

For what it's worth, the Tigers went without an extra infielder last weekend while they had an extra reliever with Jose Valverde day to day. They recalled Danny Worth when Ryan Raburn went on the bereavement list.

Jackson remains in Detroit working out in hopes of a Friday return. He was not close enough to on-field work to bring him to Boston with the team.