By Ashley Dunkak
COMERICA PARK (CBS DETROIT) – The Detroit Tigers announced that outfielder Andy Dirks will begin his rehab assignment Tuesday night with Single-A Lakeland. Dirks has missed the entire season to date after undergoing back surgery in March.
Players get 20 days for a rehab assignment, so Dirks could be back on the field for the Tigers in as few as three weeks.
“This is his spring training,” Tigers head athletic trainer Kevin Rand explained Tuesday. “One of the reasons he wouldn’t be in Triple A at this point or before the All-Star break is because they take three days. We can’t lose those days. We can’t have him playing the Tuesday of the All-Star break; everybody has that day off. But we can have him playing every other day.
“That’s what we’re trying to do,” Rand added. “We’ve got to maximize the number of days that he can play.”
The trainer said Dirks has assured him that he is mentally ready for his return as well as physically ready.
“He’s prepared,” Rand said. “He told me on the phone, he said, ‘I’m ready now.’ He said, ‘I feel I’m ready just like I would be ready in spring training to start playing.’
“He’s starting off with three at bats, will play five innings defensively, and then we’ll judge him, we’ll kind of evaluate him daily,” Rand added. “The most important thing is getting his at bats and getting him as close to 20 games as we possibly can.”
With Dirks out of the picture for the first several months of the season, Rajai Davis has gotten most of the playing time in left field for Detroit. In 69 games this season, Davis has compiled a batting average of .278 and has stolen 22 bases.
J.D. Martinez has played in left, too, but he is also used in right field and as the designated hitter when needed. Martinez has 53 hits in 49 games, good for a .323 average. He also has 12 home runs and 38 runs batted in.
Martinez has been particularly effective in the last month, with 11 doubles, 10 home runs and a .342 average over his last 30 games.
Last season Dirks played in 131 games for the Tigers, finishing the year with a .256 batting average and .323 on-base percentage along with nine home runs and 37 runs batted in.
When Dirks returns to the roster, someone else will have to go, meaning Tigers manager Brad Ausmus could soon have a difficult choice to make.
“We have roughly three weeks before a decision has to be made,” Ausmus said. “A lot of things can happen between now and then. If everything remains the same, we’re going to have a tough decision.”