Tigers Notes: Andy Dirks starts rehab assignment

Andy Dirks, out since March 29 after undergoing lower back surgery, was scheduled to start his injury rehabilitation assignment Tuesday with Single-A Lakeland.

DETROIT -- In a few weeks, the Tigers are going to have a glut of outfielders.

Andy Dirks, out since March 29 after undergoing lower back surgery, was scheduled to start his injury rehabilitation assignment Tuesday with Single-A Lakeland.

"He'll obviously be there until we feel that he's ready to move to Toledo," Tigers head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said. "We're going to start with three at-bats, he'll play five innings defensively and then we'll judge him, kind of judge him daily. The most important thing is getting his at-bats, giving him as close to 20 games as we possibly can."

Position players get 20 days of rehabilitation before a team has to make a decision.

"A lot of things can happen between now and then," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "If everything remains the same, we're going to have a tough decision."

The Tigers currently have Rajai Davis, Torii Hunter, Austin Jackson and J.D. Martinez as their outfielders.

Hunter said he's not concerned about trying to add Dirks to the mix.

"It's good," Hunter said. "Just let Andy do his thing down there and kind of work him in. When he comes up, we need a left-handed outfielder to kind of mix it up a little bit. The more depth we have, we're talking about guys can get some rest and come in fresh. It'll be fine. No big deal."

After the surgery, the timetable for Dirks to return was 12 weeks. It's taken a little longer than that for him to feel ready.

"Just kind of putting it all together, the baserunning, the swinging," Rand said. "Everything's kind of come together for him, just putting the whole package together. Now it's just a question of putting it together on the field, in competition."

Because the Florida State League has already had their All-Star break, it makes sense for Dirks to begin there.

"One of the reasons he wouldn't be at Triple-A right now is that before the All-Star break, they take three days," Rand said. "We can't lose those days. We have to have him playing. We can't have him playing the Tuesday of the All-Star break, because everybody has that day off. But he can play every other day, and that's what we're trying to do. We're trying to maximize the number of games that he can play."

No doubt Dirks is chomping at the bit to return.

"He told me on the phone, 'I'm ready now. I feel like I'm ready, just as I would be ready to start spring training,'" Rand said. 

If everything remains the same, we're going to have a tough decision.

Brad Ausmus


Rand also had an update on Joel Hanrahan, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery.

"He's throwing a bullpen, a 25-pitch bullpen on Saturday," Rand said. "He still has not faced live hitters. I'll tell you when that's coming."


The Tigers played the Dodgers in Los Angeles earlier this season but this two-game series marks the first time the Dodgers have visited Detroit since June 13-15, 2008.

It is only the Dodgers' third visit to Comerica Park. The first was June 10-12, 2003.

It's also the first time the Tigers get to see dynamic outfielder Yasiel Puig in person.

"He was hurt when we played against them in April," Hunter said. "Just watching him on TV, he plays the game hard, strong guy, great arm, great power. That's something you've got to look for on the base paths.

"What he's doing right now, he's doing without even knowing the game. Once he knows the game, I think you guys are going to see somebody that's very special."

One player who is very familiar to Ausmus is Clayton Kershaw, whom Ausmus caught when Kershaw first arrived in the league.

"He's one of my favorite teammates that I've ever had," Ausmus said. "As a person, in the clubhouse and on the field."

That doesn't mean that Ausmus is sorry his team doesn't have to face Kershaw, who has a 36-inning scoreless streak in progress, including a no-hitter.

"It doesn't bother me one bit that we miss Clayton Kershaw but it's not like we're getting the bottom of the barrel in (Hyun-Jin) Ryu and (Zack) Greinke. These are two pretty good pitchers in their own right."

Hunter doesn't mind not having to face Kershaw either, against whom he is 1-for-9 with a double.

"Nobody wants to face the very best," Hunter said. "I faced Clayton Kershaw a lot, playing with the Angels. The Angels and the Dodgers, we always faced off against each other and had some good battles and I faced him several times. It was not fun, it was a battle. We all know Clayton Kershaw is one of the best lefties in the game, if not the best lefty in the game."


Like all good teammates, the Tigers are trying their best to get Rick Porcello to the All-Star Game.

Porcello is up against stiff competition for the Final Vote and currently stands third behind Chicago White Sox lefty Chris Sale and Los Angeles Angels righty Garrett Richards.

Joba Chamberlain was busy in the Tigers' clubhouse before the game videotaping players asking people to vote for Porcello.

Chamberlain enlisted his son, Karter, to help hold a "Vote Porcello" sign for each interview. Among those taking part were Max Scherzer, Hunter and even Al Alburquerque.

"We're in first place right now and I promise you, we wouldn't be here if it weren't for Rick Porcello stepping in," Hunter said. "He's been our most consistent starter. He's really stepped up his game. I'm excited for him. He's such a great guy, works hard and it'd be his first All-Star Game."


The Tigers have signed three more players from their recent draft.

They agreed to terms with fourth-round pick Adam Ravenelle, who recently won the College World Series with Vanderbilt, eighth-rounder Artie Lewicki, a right-hander from the University of Virginia and 21st-round selection Whit Mayberry, another right-hander from Virginia.

The team has signed 29 of their 40 picks, including 17 of their top 20.