July 26th, 2012

Bunt work helps Berry hit

Before the Tigers put on their normal hit show in batting practice, before Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera started taking their swings at the outfield seats in Progressive Field, Quintin Berry was putting down one bunt after another. Manager Jim Leyland and coach Tom Brookens were watching, offering tips, trying to get him to keep his bunts on the ground.

“You have to work just like you do hitting in BP,” Berry said. “You can’t just keep going every day with just getting one bunt down. You have to get out there. You have to work on it and practice it. I’ve been struggling as of late with getting my bunts down.”

The work paid off during the game, just not the way you’d expect. He didn’t get a bunt down. He still had three hits, all well-placed singles.

Go figure. As Berry explained, working on his bunts actually helps him as a hitter.

“That allows my eyes to see the ball deep,” he said. “I’ve noticed a lot in my career, days when I do that, I usually end up having pretty decent days. It kind of helps me see the ball. I think that helped a little.”

Berry entered the night batting 8-for-39 (.205) with two walks and 10 strikeouts since the All-Star break, with six of those hits clustered into a pair of three-hit games. He was making the most of his times on base, but he wasn’t getting on base nearly as well as he had been.

Add in a walk, and he was on base four times Wednesday. All three of his hits were opposite-field singles, a line drive in the first inning to advance Austin Jackson, a ground ball in the second to drive in Omar Infante, and another grounder just inside third base in the sixth to drive in Alex Avila with two outs.

It wasn’t what they were working on pregame, but it was what manager Jim Leyland wanted to see.

“We were talking about it before the game, sometimes he gets a little aggressive and tries to do a little bit too much,” Leyland said. “Tonight he was just laying the bat on the ball. He was working on his bunting before the game, dragging and pushing.”

Leyland was working with him, stopping him at a couple different points to try to make a point about technique.

“I was in the minor leagues a long time,” Leyland said. “I listened to a lot of guys and learned a little bit about instruction, how to do it and everything. I was always taught when you’re a left-handed hitter, which I wasn’t, you take that back leg and just as that back leg hits the ground, you should be making contact with the ball. That’s the only thing I was trying to show him. Brookie and Raffy were talking to him.”