KANSAS CITY -- By all accounts, Max Scherzer has passed his final test to be cleared to pitch Wednesday's regular season finale against the Royals. The biggest hurdle left is whether the Tigers need the right-hander for it.
Scherzer threw all of his pitches on Monday afternoon without discomfort in the shoulder that had bothered him last week. He saved his top velocity for his last, answering manager Jim Leyland's caution that he won't use Scherzer if he's struggling to get velocity.
"The last pitch I threw, I threw as hard as I could," Scherzer said. "It felt good coming out of my hand."
As Leyland said of Scherzer's fastball, it'll be there if he needs it. The question left to be answered, of course, is whether they need Scherzer at all. That will depend on whether the Tigers win either of the next two games, or if the American League Central race is still in doubt heading into the season's final day.
If the Tigers clinch Monday or Tuesday, according to Leyland, Drew Smyly would start Wednesday in Scherzer's place, whether Scherzer feels fine or not. Still, the Tigers would have to work out a plan for getting Scherzer ready for a Division Series start, for which he expects to be at full strength.
If Scherzer has his way, that could involve pitching in some fashion on Wednesday.
"If we do get in the playoffs," Scherzer said, "I would like to get in a live game."
Berry appreciative of his starting opportunity
KANSAS CITY -- The Quintin Berry story with the Tigers will always start with how he was a Minor League free agent with just four games above Double-A ball at this point last year. It should also note that just over two weeks ago, he was buried on Detroit's bench, relegated to defensive replacement and pinch-runner.
Now, he's in position to serve as a starting outfielder in postseason games if the Tigers can clinch an American League Central title. It's a second chance he has valued greatly.
"It feels good to just be thought of in a situation that I can help," Berry said, "and that I can be out there consistently and try to do something to help this team win. It means a lot to me that the coaching staff thinks highly enough of me to put me in there every day. I try to do what I can with it and keep working hard."
Manager Jim Leyland said Berry has handled the second chance OK, noting he has come up with a few big hits. Where Leyland really praised Berry, though, was his defense, particularly over the weekend in Minnesota, where he made two day-game starts in left field.
"I thought quietly, Berry played a heckuva left field in Minnesota under some tough conditions -- sun, slicing balls, balls that were deep. I thought he did one heckuva job," Leyland said. "I'm giving the kid credit. I thought he did a wonderful job. That kind of went unnoticed."
Berry did so at a position he had rarely played previously in his pro career. His speed has always led him to center field, and his first shot at big league playing time came there while Austin Jackson was injured from mid-May into June. The more Berry plays there, though, the more he learns.
"Luckily, those balls that were hit at me had that tail, so they were able to get out of the sun at the last minute," Berry said.
Berry rarely played anywhere in August and early September, until Brennan Boesch's slump prompted Leyland to start Berry against right-handed hitters.
"Either way, it didn't matter, because I felt like I could help in any situation," Berry said. "Even the days when I wouldn't play, I'd come in to pinch-run or help out defensively. That's fine with me. As long as I'm part of the team, helping us win, to be here for the whole ride, that's all I want to do."
Tigers have limited number of postseason tickets
KANSAS CITY -- The Tigers announced on Monday that a limited number of tickets remain available for American League Division Series games at Comerica Park this weekend.
The Tigers would host games on Saturday and Sunday. Game times wouldn't be set until after the regular season, when the opponent is known.
Tickets are available online at tigers.com/postseason, or by phone at 866-66-TIGER.