OAKLAND -- The way Andy Dirks is hitting, it's not a stretch to say that the Tigers need him. Yet that's the problem with playing him all the time right now.
The Tigers can't risk aggravating his sore hamstring because, well, they need him.
"It's a tough situation to manage right now," manager Jim Leyland admitted Friday afternoon.
The last 24 hours have been a pretty good example why. Leyland lifted Dirks in the seventh inning Thursday night with a 10-2 lead because he didn't like the way Dirks was moving around on a ground-ball single. So he replaced the plus defender and shifted Ryan Raburn from second base to left field.
On Friday, Dirks was back in the lineup as a left-handed bat against A's lefty Tommy Milone. It was just his second start against a left-handed pitcher this season.
Leyland doesn't feel like he really has to hide Dirks against lefties, but ever since his hamstring acted up rounding third base in mid-April, Leyland has decided those were the best games to give Dirks a break and not risk further injury.
Plus, Dirks' fit into the second spot in the order leaves Leyland extra hesitant to make a change. His four-hit performance Thursday improved him to 10-for-17 in the No. 2 spot this season, including two doubles, two home runs and five RBIs.
"He's really a nice player," Leyland said. "It would be really nice if he could settled into this two hole."
Seeing him do that right now would be a welcome surprise, but maybe a stretch, if only for health reasons. Still, Leyland said he checked with the team medical staff to see if it would be possible for Dirks to improve healthwise while playing nearly every day. It's possible, Leyland said, but it could take awhile.
Likewise, though, Leyland was told a couple days off really won't make much of a difference.
Marte set to make extended spring appearance
OAKLAND -- Six weeks after Luis Marte strained his left hamstring while pitching in the Tigers' final game of Spring Training, he can see a path back to live action. Whether it eventually gets him that shot at the big leagues that he had earned remains to be seen.
Marte, who had made the Opening Day roster before his injury sidelined him, is scheduled to return to game action at extended spring workouts Saturday in Lakeland, Fla. He'll continue to progress from there as long as he's healthy, but with nearly two months since his last outing, he'll need some time to build his arm strength.
Once Marte is ready to progress through the Tigers' developmental system, the team can send him out on a rehab assignment for up to 30 days before they would need to either bring him back to Detroit or option him to an affiliate. An extended spring workout doesn't count against a Minor League rehab assignment.
"I'm sure he'll be all right," manager Jim Leyland said. "He's just got to get on the mound and face some hitters."
Bullpen gets plenty of work despite quality starts
OAKLAND -- The Tigers entered Friday's game against the Athletics with nine consecutive quality starts from their rotation. Yet they don't quite have their bullpen the way they want it. Even Thursday night's gem from Max Scherzer and a 10-run outburst from Detroit's offense wasn't enough to help.
By the time the Tigers finished off Friday's 10-6 win, they had used their entire late-inning combination of closer Jose Valverde, eighth-inning man Joaquin Benoit and setup relievers Phil Coke and Octavio Dotel. And Collin Balester, who hadn't thrown in a game since April 29, threw just two pitches Thursday.
Coke wasn't available Friday, having thrown four times in the previous five days and using 16 pitches Thursday thanks to two infield singles and a walk. Benoit was available but threw 18 pitches Thursday to record his lone out of the game.
Once Brandon Inge's grand slam made it a four-run game, manager Jim Leyland was using his bullpen because he had to, not because he wanted to, as he likes to say. That was more of a problem when the Tigers rotation was struggling to put up effective innings.
"It's kind of a complicated thing that's working itself out now that everything is intact," Leyland said.
Avila to return for last two games vs. A's
OAKLAND -- Alex Avila was out of the Tigers lineup for the third time in four days, but manager Jim Leyland characterized it as more of a matchup move than an injury concern, saying he'll be in the lineup for the final two games of the series against the Athletics.
Avila sat Friday against Oakland lefty Tommy Milone, giving Gerald Laird his third start of the week. Avila missed Tuesday and Wednesday night at Seattle with patellar soreness in his left knee.
That knee, Avila said Friday, feels "night and day" better than it did a couple days ago. He should be able to keep it that way if he maintains his training program to strengthen the muscles around the knee.