Andy Dirks begins rehab assignment in Lakeland
Three months after Andy Dirks played in his last game, an early Spring Training contest before he was diagnosed as needing back surgery, the Tigers outfielder is finally back to game action. He headed out on a minor-league rehab assignment Tuesday, beginning at Class A Lakeland.
When Dirks underwent back surgery March 10, the original timetable projected his recovery to take about 12 weeks. His return has been slower than that, delayed at times because of discomfort he felt while moving around. Considering the nature of the surgery, essentially repairing a disc in his back, it isn’t a huge surprise.
Dirks played in four early Spring Training games before his back problems worsened. Essentially, his rehab assignment is his Spring Training, which means this probably isn’t going to be a quick stint to just his timing back at the plate. He can stay on rehab for up to 20 days, which would take him up towards the end of July if he took that long. Dirks still has minor-league options, too, if he needs more time than that.
If he gets through it and comes back, the Tigers gain a potentially valuable left-handed bat for their outfield, something they currently don’t have. Though Dirks’ 2013 numbers were disappointing (.256 average, nine home runs, 37 RBIs, .686 OPS in 484 plate appearances), he was expected to be in line for a bounceback year this season before the back issues hit.
How the Tigers fit him into their outfield picture is probably a question best answered later than it is now. J.D. Martinez continues to drill the ball well after the point where one would’ve reasonably expected a hot streak to end. Torii Hunter is showing signs of better swings. Rajai Davis is off to a good start in July after struggling through June, while Austin Jackson continues to be up and down.
While Victor Martinez’s back issues allowed the Tigers to play all four in the same lineup for most of last week, the odd man has been utilityman Don Kelly, despite his standing as the only left-handed hitter in the bunch. That said, there’s a risk in taking Kelly off the roster, because if leaves middle infielder Andrew Romine backing up Nick Castellanos at third base.