Tigers’ Dirks unable to play on rehab assignment with hamstring injury

Andy Dirks was expected to platoon in left field this year with Rajai Davis, but back surgery was required late in spring training.

Rick Osentoski

TOLEDO, Ohio — Detroit Tigers outfielder Andy Dirks had his 20-day minor league rehabilitation assignment transferred to Toledo on Thursday, but he wasn’t in the starting lineup for the Mud Hens against Lehigh Valley in their night game.

"His back is fine now," said Toledo manager Larry Parrish, "but he’s got a little hamstring problem. It’s going to be maybe a couple days before he gets in there."

Dirks began his assignment Aug. 1 with the West Michigan Whitecaps, and will have until Aug. 20 to complete it. He had back surgery in March, and had his first rehab assignment attempt scratched after the back flared up after five games with the Lakeland Flying Tigers.

"The back’s going great now," Dirks said. "No problems there.

"And my timing as a hitter is great, too. But I need to play some more to get my body ready to play the game. You can’t simulate baseball and playing an entire game until you do it."

Detroit general manager Dave Dombrowski will have a difficult decision to make if and when Dirks is ready to return to the majors. Both J.D. Martinez and Ezequiel Carrera, who began the season in Toledo, are making strong contributions with the Tigers in the outfield. And outfielders Torii Hunter and Rajai Davis are established players. Don Kelly is a super utility player able to play outfield and infield positions.

I asked Dirks if he was analyzing the situation the Tigers are in with too many quality outfielders and only so many roster spots.

"There’s not much that goes through my mind," Dirks said with a laugh.

So, he will let those in charge make the decisions?

"That’s right," Dirks said. "I get paid to play, and that’s what I do."

Dirks said he doesn’t watch many Tigers’ games on cable television.

"I can’t watch too much of that," Dirks said. "I’ll go nuts."

Dirks was 3-for-14 (.214) with one double for West Michigan. He was 5-for-14 (.313) with one double and one RBI for Lakeland.

The left-handed hitter was expected to platoon in left field this year with Davis, but back surgery was required late in spring training. Dirks batted .256 with 16 doubles, two triples and nine homers with 37 RBI in 438 at-bats with the Tigers in 2013.

Dirks started 211 games as a corner outfielder for Detroit over the last three seasons, and also started 15 games in center. He’s better-suited to left and right, but able to play center.


Jim Johnson, who saved 101 games for the Baltimore Orioles in 2013-14 but was released by the Oakland A’s on Aug. 1 with the highest earned run average (7.14) of any American League reliever, is scheduled to pitch Friday, Sunday and Wednesday for Toledo.

"But that is subject to change according to how he pitches," said Parrish. "I hear his velocity and stuff are good, but he hasn’t had his command."

Detroit signed Johnson, 31, to a minor league contract and sent him to the Mud Hens with hopes that his command problems (5.1 walks per nine innings) can be corrected.