BLADE/JEFFREY SMITH Enlarge
Quintin Berry was not ready for the dream to end.
When the Mud Hens center fielder learned he would begin this season in Toledo — not Detroit — he took the news hard. The 28-year-old minor league journeyman whose feel-good story last season had bulleted him out of nowhere into a key role on a World Series team was sure he would break spring training with the Tigers.
"I didn't expect the outcome the way it did," Berry said before the Mud Hens’ 6-0 victory over Louisville on a rain-soaked Saturday night at Fifth Third Field. "It hurt me a lot to the point where I was trying so hard to get out of here so fast."
So he tried, harder with each day, until he was locked in the slump of his life and the stretch of I-75 between Toledo and Detroit seemed longer than ever. Two months into the season, Berry is hitting .168 (28-for-167).
PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to view
He appraised his performance this year as "terrible" and "pretty much 100 percent mental."
"You have to play and have fun and just kind of let the game happen," Berry said. "It’s easy to say, hard to do. As everybody can see, I haven't been doing too well of a job at it."
Saturday marked a welcome bright night for Berry and the struggling Hens (19-38).
Berry went 1 for 4 with a run scored and reached on an error while Toledo enjoyed a rare complete effort.
The Hens rallied for five runs in the fourth and finished with 10 hits to provide more than enough support for starter Casey Crosby (2-5), who turned in his finest outing of an inconsistent season.
Crosby limited the Bats (27-29) to two hits and struck out eight while walking one over 6 2/3 scoreless innings.
BLADE/JEFFREY SMITH Enlarge
He did not allow his first hit until No. 9-hitter Konrad Schmidt beat out an infield single with no outs in the sixth.
"He threw strikes," Nevin said. "And when he lost the zone for a pitch or two, he was able to get it back. I actually saw him step off the mound, take a deep breath, and get back up there.
"That’s something we’ve been trying to talk to him about, because he gets in those two- or three-ball ruts, and he tends to rush himself."
It was the Hens’ second straight win and fourth in six games.
Berry hopes it’s the start of a season-turning run — for him and the Hens.
If he knows anything, it is that fortune can quickly change.
A year ago, Berry, a fifth-round draft pick by the Phillies in 2006, was just glad to be in Toledo. The blistering outfielder had nearly walked away from the game after the 2010 season and spent the past three years hanging on in Double-A.
Yet Berry, who had only four games of previous Triple-A experience, hit .270 with 19 stolen bases in 35 games at Toledo — three more steals than the Tigers’ season total at that point — and continued at a similar pace in Detroit. In 94 games with the Tigers, he batted .258 with 10 doubles, six triples, and 21 stolen bases.
When the Tigers did not have a spot for him on their Opening-Day roster, Berry admittedly sulked. Nevin said players can handle a situation one of two ways.
"You can come back and man up and play and do the things it takes to get back or you can feel sorry for yourself," he said.
Berry admitted has spanned both spectrums, though Nevin said he’s seen improvement — in his plate approach, his outlook, everything — in recent weeks.
"I’m hoping I’m starting to turn the corner," Berry said. "You just push forward and play, and whatever happens happens."
Contact David Briggs at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6084, or on Twitter @ DBriggsBlade.