DETROIT -- Austin Jackson was scheduled to begin his rehab assignment at Triple-A Toledo Thursday night, and could be back in the Tigers' lineup as soon as Saturday in Cincinnati. The bigger question for many is what happens with speedy Quintin Berry once Jackson returns.
By every indication, Berry will be sticking with the Tigers. The role he'll have is unclear. It won't be center field. It could conceivably be a corner spot, though it probably wouldn't be an everyday role.
"Who do you want me to take out? ... You can only play three outfielders," Leyland said.
The fact that the Tigers won't have the designated hitter spot available again until next Friday complicates the issue. If Delmon Young is going to play, and he will, it'll have to be in left field. Brennan Boesch is in right field, but he entered Thursday's series finale against the Indians mired in a 2-for-38 slump.
Leyland said Berry's speed could make him a candidate for a National League-style double switch, entering a game in the field and batting ninth while the starting pitcher gets replaced. He'll start in center field on Friday with Jackson out. Other than that, Leyland wasn't making any definitive statements on Berry's role.
"Don't get me wrong, Quintin Berry's done a good job," Leyland said. "Don't misunderstand me. I'm not downplaying what Quintin Berry has done. I don't want to make light of that."
Boesch looking to snap out of offensive funk
DETROIT -- The Tigers are trying to find ways to get Brennan Boesch out of his recent skid, including a close look at his mechanics.
Boesch is trying to find his way out of this stretch, too. At the same time, he said, "I can't get bogged down in mechanics and overthink."
That's the conundrum for the Tigers and their young right fielder as they try to guide him out of what arguably ranks as his toughest skid since his second-half swoon as a rookie in 2010. Thursday was a pretty good start.
After a 2-for-28 slump with zero extra-base hits since Memorial Day weekend dropped his batting average from .259 to .222, manager Jim Leyland tried another tactic with Boesch, moving him up to second in the lineup against Indians sinkerballer Derek Lowe. Essentially, it was Leyland's way of going all-in with Boesch to try to maximize a favorable matchup, with a low-ball hitter facing a low-ball pitcher.
The matchup paid off, in part because of the situations hitting second, as Boesch went 2-for-4 with an RBI in the Tigers' 7-5 win.
The first came in the opening inning after Quintin Berry's leadoff single. With a 2-1 count on Boesch, Berry took off, leaving Boesch to try to swing. He got a sinker low and outside and went with it, lining it to left for an opposite-field single that put runners at the corners and none out in what ended up being a four-run inning.
After grounding out in the next inning, Boesch came back up in the fourth with Danny Worth on second base and watched Lowe throw offspeed pitches all over the place for a 3-0 count. With Miguel Cabrera due up, Leyland would've had every right to tell Boesch to take the next pitch and try to get on base with a walk.
Instead, Leyland gave him the sign to swing away.
"We green-lighted him, 3-0, and if it hadn't worked, we would've been fools," Leyland said.
Lowe, perhaps expecting that, threw a sinker right over the plate. Boesch sent to deep to right-center field on a hop to score Worth and extend the inning for Cabrera's two-run homer and a 7-1 lead.
"That was, for me, the biggest at-bat -- falling behind him," Lowe said after the game.
It was a good rebound game for Boesch after he didn't get the ball to the infield dirt in four at-bats on Wednesday night. Earlier Wednesday, hitting coach Lloyd McClendon and other members of the Tigers' staff had compared video of Boesch's swing this season with last year. They found Boesch's hips were opening up earlier on his swings, and later on others.
"His hips were way over here on one swing," Leyland said, "and the other swing they were where they're supposed to be."
Tigers hoping to start Laird against Reds
DETROIT -- Among the Tigers slated to take early batting practice Friday afternoon in Cincinnati will be catcher Gerald Laird, who has been available on an emergency basis only since tweaking his right hamstring last Friday.
If Laird can get through early BP and running drills, manager Jim Leyland plans on starting him behind the plate in the Interleague series opener against the Reds.
"If he convinces me he's OK, then I'm going to play him," Leyland said. "But this has been a two-time thing with Gerald and the legs, so I'm being very cautious about it."
Bryan Holaday, just called up on Wednesday for his Major League debut, started again Thursday afternoon against the Indians. His parents, his brother and his sister were in town for his first Major League hit Wednesday after flying in from Texas, which made the moment all the more special for him.
Nonetheless, it's a makeshift situation for Leyland, who wants to get back to the catchers who have handled the pitching staff in Detroit for much of the year. He can't have Alex Avila, who's on the disabled list and will stay in Detroit for the upcoming trip to Cincinnati and Chicago, but he can have Laird once he gets over this hamstring.