CHICAGO -- Andy Dirks' oft-used phrase last summer to describe his basic approach was that he's "just a ballplayer." So it figures that he would have a pretty good approach to being just a hitter.
The Tigers have used three different players at designated hitter through seven games, but the 26-year-old Dirks has been the most frequent, starting four games. It's an odd spot for a young player known for his outfield defense and deceptive speed, but at 5-for-14 with a double, triple and two RBIs through Friday, he doesn't have to apologize for his bat.
For a lot of players, the trick to DH-ing is filling the time between at-bats. Gary Sheffield used to ride the exercise bike. Victor Martinez would have a bat in his hand the whole time, whether he was in the dugout or the batting cage. Dirks hasn't had that problem.
"It's just focus," Dirks said. "Knowing that you're not out there playing, you've got to stay into the game. I try to sit in the dugout as much as I can, just watch the game and see what's going on and stay in baseball mode the whole time.
"I know when it's my turn to hit, that's when I need to focus. Other than that, I can just relax, watch the game, root for my teammates."
Inge ready to rejoin Tigers after rehab stint
CHICAGO -- The locker and the road jersey were waiting for Brandon Inge on Friday morning in the visiting clubhouse at U.S. Cellular Field. All that was left was for the player himself to show up.
He'll be there on Saturday. Inge, recovering from a sore left groin, will be activated from the 15-day disabled list in time for the middle game of their series against the White Sox. The Tigers optioned infielder Danny Worth to Triple-A Toledo after Friday's loss to make room on the 25-man roster.
Inge will be in the starting lineup at second base on Sunday, when the Tigers are scheduled to face White Sox left-hander Chris Sale.
Saturday is the first day Inge is eligible to be activated. He spent three days rehabbing with Toledo, ending with a 1-for-9 performance at the plate with three walks.
"The timing will come back," Inge told the Toledo Blade on Thursday. "I'm not worried about the results right now. When you're going through a rehab, getting timing, seeing the pitches and drawing walks is important. I really didn't get many good pitches to hit. They weren't throwing me much -- which was kind of funny."
Tigers manager Jim Leyland has said that Inge will assume a part-time role as a starting second baseman against some but not all left-handed starting pitchers, and possibly an occasional start at third base when Miguel Cabrera either gets a day off or starts at DH.
Worth made the Opening Day roster as an extra infielder when Inge opened the season on the DL. He went 1-for-5 in three games, including a start at second base last Tuesday against the Rays.
Wilk's first start extra special for mom
CHICAGO -- Adam Wilk's mom has never seen her son pitch in a professional game in person, either in the Major Leagues or the Minors. He was hoping she'd get a chance to see him open the season with the Tigers. He didn't get that, but he couldn't have planned out his first big league start much better.
When Wilk takes the mound at U.S. Cellular Field on Saturday afternoon, Deborah Wilk will be in the stands watching. A high school teacher in Southern California, she'll be able to fly in to see her son realize another big league dream.
"She's actually seen me in L.A. and Anaheim in uniform [in the Tigers' bullpen last summer]," he said, "but I've never pitched there, so this is actually the first time she's seen me pitch professionally."
Deborah Wilk's work includes teaching freshmen in the summer. So while Adam was working his way through the Tigers' farm system, she wasn't able to make the trip east to watch. So she would follow her son and call, or eventually text, him after games.
"She used to always call me and I'd never call back," Adam admitted. "I can't sit like this [with the phone to his ear] for hours, because moms always want to talk forever. So she learned to text a lot better. She'll text me and I'll respond that way. Sometimes if I have a bad outing, her responses are just -- you'll read them and you're like, 'Thanks, mom. That's not what I wanted to see there.'"
The Tigers will officially recall Wilk from Triple-A Toledo on Saturday. To make room on the 25-man roster, Detroit optioned right-handed reliever Brayan Villarreal to Toledo after Friday's loss. Villarreal pitched 1 1/3 innings over three appearances, allowing one hit and recording one strikeout.
String of no-decisions a first
CHICAGO -- Justin Verlander has drawn national attention for his winless start, despite 16 scoreless innings and one bad one. The way the Tigers' first week has gone, he has plenty of company in the win column.
None of the Tigers' starters have wins. In fact, Verlander's loss to the Rays on Wednesday was the only decision for anybody in the rotation through the first six games.
If that sounds historic, it is. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Detroit is the first team in Major League history to win at least five of its first six games without a starting pitcher getting a win.
Each of the first five victories went to relievers, two of the first three to Duane Below.