Dirks' return could come at expense of Berry

Dirks' return could come at expense of Berry

DETROIT -- The Tigers have a plan on Andy Dirks' rehab assignment, manager Jim Leyland said Wednesday. Whether they have a plan on how to make room for his return is another story, but Leyland is already bracing for that question.

So when it didn't come up Wednesday, he asked it himself.

"What are you going to do when Dirks gets back? I don't know, so there's no sense going there," Leyland said. "I have no idea what's going to happen."

The first part of that question, fitting Dirks on the 25-man roster, is iffy enough. With Omar Infante now taking over at second base, Ryan Raburn is a reserve outfielder along with Don Kelly. Raburn bats right-handed, but is hitting just .163 (13-for-80) off left-handed pitching. Kelly, like Dirks, bats left-handed.

Kelly is out of Minor League options, but Raburn has enough Major League service time that he can decline an option. Either way, the Tigers would have to seriously consider parting ways with either of them if they were to make a move.

Then there's Quintin Berry, who has been a catalyst for the offense and has taken over in left field, but entered Wednesday batting just .205 (8-for-39) with two walks and 10 strikeouts since the All-Star break, but came up with a three-hit, two-RBI effort in the Tigers' 5-3 win over the Indians.

If the Tigers brought back Dirks with the intention of starting him in left, they'd have to weigh whether Berry has value in a reserve role as a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner.

"One thing for sure: Dirks and Berry both can't play [at the same time]," Leyland said. "But it's OK, because it's a good problem to have."

One factor that could further cloud the picture is a trade, if the Tigers were to add another bat. Though they're set in the rotation and in the everyday lineup, indications are they're still open to adding a right-handed bat to fortify their roster.

Dirks homered for Triple-A Toledo on Tuesday in Columbus, but was out of the lineup on Wednesday as a precaution due to soreness.

"He needs to get some at-bats," Leyland said. "He needs to play. We've got a plan for him now. He's playing. How many at-bats does he need? Who knows? Everybody always wants to be ahead of the curve, and you can't be ahead of the curve."