7/9/2014 12:34 A.M. ET
Dirks begins rehab assignment on high note
By Jason Beck and Matt Slovin / MLB.com
DETROIT -- 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. Dirks headed out on a Minor League rehab assignment Tuesday, beginning at Class A Lakeland.
Dirks went 1-for-3 with a single and two runs scored, testing his legs by scoring from first base on a triple his final time on the bases. Essentially, he is picking up where he left off in the spring.
"This is his Spring Training," head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said Tuesday.
Dirks will progress from there until he's playing in full games before eventually moving up to Triple-A Toledo. That won't happen any sooner than late next week, because the Florida State League will include games over the All-Star break, while Toledo's schedule will not.
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.
Dirks played in four early Spring Training games before his back problems worsened. That lack of work 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 toward the end of July if he needs the entire assignment.
"We'll kind of evaluate him daily as far as where we think he needs to go," Rand said, "but the important thing is getting him his at-bats and as close to 20 games as we possibly can."
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 bounce-back year this season before the back issues hit.
How the Tigers fit Dirks into their outfield picture is probably a question better answered later. J.D. Martinez continues to drill the ball well. Torii Hunter is showing signs of better swings. Rajai Davis is off to a good start in July after struggling through June and Austin Jackson continues to be up and down.
While Victor Martinez's back issues have allowed the Tigers to play all four in the same lineup for most of the past week, the odd man has been utility man Don Kelly, despite his standing as the only left-handed hitter in the bunch. However, there's a risk in taking Kelly off the roster, because it leaves shortstop Andrew Romine backing up Nick Castellanos at third base.
Hanrahan throwing, but yet to face hitters
DETROIT -- Neither Joel Hanrahan nor the Tigers had a timetable for the pitcher getting onto the mound in a Detroit uniform when he signed in early May amid his recovery from Tommy John surgery. Two months later, that uncertainty remains.
While Hanrahan continues to throw off a mound at the Tigers' Spring Training facility in Lakeland, Fla., he has not yet faced hitters -- either in live batting practice or simulated games.
Hanrahan threw a 25-pitch bullpen session on Saturday, Tigers head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said.
The right-hander had his rehab process slowed last month to build up arm strength. It has been a reminder that while the recovery process for many pitchers has made elbow surgery look almost routine, it is anything but easy.
Hanrahan's contract has a $1 million base salary, with another $2 million in performance bonuses. Those bonuses depend at least in part on how many games he pitches as a Tiger.
Tigers not taking any chances with V-Mart
DETROIT -- As Tigers slugger Victor Martinez continues to recover from a sore back and side, manager Brad Ausmus will insist on exercising caution when determining whether or not Martinez will participate in All-Star festivities next week in Minnesota.
Martinez, who leads the team in home runs and batting average, was out of the lineup once again on Tuesday night vs. the Dodgers.
"I'm going to be cautious with him," Ausmus said.
Ausmus added that even if Martinez returns to action for Detroit before the All-Star break, that doesn't necessarily mean he'll be a go for the All-Star Game next Tuesday.
"Even if he is able to play for us prior to the break, it might be in his body's best interest to not partake in the baseball activities of the All-Star Game," Ausmus said.
According to Ausmus, the possibility of Martinez going on the disabled list isn't something that's being considered, largely because of the impending break.
The manager said earlier this week that there will be discussions between himself, Martinez, general manager Dave Dombrowski and trainer Kevin Rand before a decision is reached.
"I think Victor understands it's more important to play the season than play the All-Star Game," Ausmus said.
Tigers' All-Star teacher finalist announced
DETROIT -- Along with Target and PEOPLE, Major League Baseball announced Tuesday the 30 winners of the "Target Presents PEOPLE All-Star Teachers" campaign.
Detroit's honoree is Michael Sinclair, who has taught physics, calculus, geology and astronomy at Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center for the past 26 years.
Sinclair was the 2006 Michigan High School Science Teacher of the Year. As the Tigers' winner, he'll be one of 30 teachers recognized in a pregame ceremony before the All-Star Game at Target Field next Tuesday.
Fans cast votes at AllStarTeachers.com to whittle a pool of 90 finalists down to the 30 winners.
• Two weeks after Adam Ravenelle and Artie Lewicki traded outs as opponents in the deciding game of the College World Series, they became teammates in the Tigers' system, as both players from the 2014 First-Year Player Draft signed contracts on Monday.
Ravenelle, a fourth-round pick from Vanderbilt's title-winning squad, received a $412,000 bonus, slightly above slot. Lewicki, an eighth-round pick, received a $60,000 bonus as a college senior out of Virginia, according to MLB.com's Jim Callis. His deal helps keep the Tigers around their league-assigned spending cap after going above slot on a few other signings.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. Matt Slovin is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.