DETROIT — Left fielder Andy Dirks is getting closer to a return to the Detroit Tigers after back surgery in March, while right-handed reliever Luke Putkonen’s Thursday surgery makes him unlikely to return any earlier than August.
Former All-Star closer Joel Hanrahan, signed earlier this season by the Tigers, is back throwing bullpen sessions in Lakeland, Fla. Hanrahan, who had Tommy John surgery last May, had ceased throwing briefly but has resumed doing so.
"He’s fairly consistent," said Tigers head athletic trainer Kevin Rand of the bullpen sessions. "The next step is to throw live batting practice."
Once Hanrahan faces live hitters, a timetable on a rehabilitation assignment will be discussed. Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said that assignment likely will begin with the Lakeland Flying Tigers.
Putkonen underwent arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur from his right elbow, which also was "shaved down and smoothed out," according to Rand. Orthopedic surgeon James Andrews performed the procedures in Pensacola, Fla.
"He will have six to eight weeks of rest and rehabilitation and be reevaluated then," Rand said Friday.
Putkonen has been on the disabled list since April 19 with right elbow inflammation and had recently visited Andrews, who at that time determined no surgery was necessary. There had been fear that Tommy John surgery could be required, but that was not the case. Still, Rand said Putkonen was not progressing as he had hoped and was reexamined by Andrews this week.
Putkonen, who had a 3.03 ERA in 30 outings last season for Detroit, appeared in only two games this year while trying to pitch through elbow problems. He allowed eight earned runs in 2 2/3 innings before going on the disabled list.
Dirks, a left-handed hitter who had been expected to platoon in left field with Rajai Davis, had 438 at-bats last season. He hit .256 with 16 doubles, nine homers and 37 RBIs in 2013.
"He’s making progress on schedule and took his first live swings today," said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, who had the same microdisectomy on his lower back as a player. "He’s doing all baseball activity now."
Rand said Dirks, who is rehabilitating in Lakeland, Fla., is close to going on a rehabilitation assignment, and likely will do so by next weekend.
"He was in an intra-squad game today," Rand said, "and will play in a couple more intra-squad games. He’s getting close, but they want to see him base-running."
Rand said the timing of Dirks’ rehab assignment will be "re-visited" after he plays in a Monday exhibition game in Florida. Players have a maximum of 20 days to spend on rehab assignments.
MAX SCHERZER’S GEM REVISITED:
Tigers ace Max Scherzer threw his first complete game shutout Thursday night in Chicago, beating Chris Sale and the White Sox, 4-0, with a three-hitter.
Don Kelly, a good friend of Scherzer’s, got animated while approaching Scherzer after the final out.
"I said, ‘It’s about time!’ " Kelly said. "He was laughing."
Scherzer won a Cy Young Award (2013) before throwing a complete game, which came in his 179th regular season start for the Tigers and Arizona Diamondbacks. He also didn’t have a complete game shutout in nine post-season starts.
Scherzer wore a smile on his face in the moments after accomplishing the feat that might have been longer-lasting and brighter than any he’d shown before.
"I was just happy to get the monkey off my back," Scherzer said Friday. "And it was a good win for us to salvage something out of the series (Chicago took two of three games) with us beating one of the best pitchers in the game in Chris Sale."
Kelly said, "He was thrilled and deserved it. Max has been so good but…Now, there’s no ‘but’ there."