Dirks finally approaching ballplayer status again
Trying to heal up from a persistently pesky Achilles injury that’s kept him out since the end of May, Dirks hadn’t been able to do a lot of the things he was used to doing, especially since he spent half that time in a walking boot.
It was, by far, the longest he’s gone without being a ballplayer in a long, long time.
“I’ve been playing solid baseball for the last three years — this is the longest I’ve been without baseball in a while,” Dirks said earlier this month. “I’m staying in shape as good as I can. I don’t want to get out of shape and show up fat. ... I watched TV. Watched the game on TV. Played a little guitar. Rest. That’s about it. It’s pretty boring. I’ve got a pretty boring life right now.”
That’s all about to change for the better, as it seems like the second-year outfielder is finally on the mend, enough that he may possibly be headed out for a rehabilitation stint later this week.
The left fielder, who parlayed a successful winter campaign in the Dominican Winter League into a hot start before injuries derailed him, was back in town from Florida to “put on a show” for trainers, as his manager put it.
“This is the best it’s felt in a long time,” Dirks said. “It’s showing signs of good improvement. Now I’ve just got to get to the point where I can go full-bore baseball activities, and then look to do some kind of rehab assignment.”
The staff at the Tigers’ facility in Lakeland, Fla., helped the outfielder push the envelope, cranking up the intensity of the training regimen as fast as his body could adjust to it.
Dirks, however, knows that he can’t push it too fast, in an attempt to return sooner. He’s tried that before, both with the Achilles, as well as with the hamstring he was nursing before that.
“At this point, I’ve missed so much time already, why miss a couple more days?” he said philosophically. “Obviously, I’d rather be out there playing today, but today’s not an option, so just gotta get it better, and trying to keep it progressing, progressing, progressing.”
Dirks has hit off a tee, as well as with a coach pitching. He’s yet to face live pitching, though.
And he really didn’t have a good handle on how long it might take him to get back up to game speed, get his timing back, once he does head out to a minor league destination for a rehab stint.
“It’ll probably take some at-bats, and that’ll be good. My swing feels good. I don’t think to much about it — ever. The baseball is all I think about. As soon as I start hitting the baseball hard, I’m sure I’ll be good to go,” he said. “For me, if I go out and feel fine, I’m ready to play. But they know better than I do about that. I’ve never been on a rehab stint anywhere. But these guys know how to do it, I don’t. I’m just a baseball player.”
Given how much time he’s missed already, and how rusty he’s likely become, his manager isn’t counting on him anytime real soon.
“Well, the good news for me is when he’s ready to play for the Detroit Tigers, which won’t be for quite a while. Because he’s going to have to go out and get several at-bats — he’s been out two months, six weeks plus. He’s going to have to go out and get at-bats, and it won’t just be three or four days of at-bats,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “That’s still a process.”