Two players who have seen plenty of action with the Tigers this season played big roles in the Mud Hens' 7-3 win over Louisville at Fifth Third Field Tuesday afternoon.
Andy Dirks, who is on a rehab assignment with the Mud Hens, snapped out of an 0-for-16 funk with a 2-for-4 day that included a home run. In nine games with Toledo Dirks is batting .182 (up from .138 before the game) with a pair of home runs and four RBIs.
Detroit placed Dirks on its disabled list June 3 (retroactive to May 31) because of right Achilles tendinitis.
"I think this was his best day," Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin said of Dirks. "I know he got some hits early [in his rehab assignment], but right when you come back you may run into some balls and not really know what's going on, and the timing might still be a little off.
"This was his best day swinging the bat. He hit the ball right on the screws three times."
Dirks said he continues to feel good as the rehab process continues.
"Everything right now is going good," he said. "I'm starting to get some at-bats and seeing the ball better. I'm just trying to have some fun and win some games. Instead of worrying about how [the Achilles] is feeling, I'm able to get out there and just play, worrying about hitting the ball rather than [worrying], 'If I move this way, is it going to hurt?' Now I am just concentrating about baseball."
The two-month layoff is longer than this past off-season for Dirks, who played winter ball in the Dominican Republic.
"The timing is coming back, but it's one of those things that sometimes takes 40 or 50 at-bats [to come back]," Dirks said. "But I felt good today, so I'll try to keep it rolling into the next game that I play."
Dirks said offensively he has to fight the urge to try and do too much.
"When you come back, you get a little antsy," he admitted. "You haven't played in a while, and you want to hit the ball so hard that it can mess with your mechanics a little bit. I'm getting back to seeing the ball and hitting it."
Dirks said he worked to not let his 16 at-bat hitless streak get him down.
"Any time you can barrel up a ball and have some success, it feels good," he said. "Any time that you struggle, you have to know that it's a process. You have to keep working, stay relaxed. There's no reason to press. Once you get your timing and start hitting a few balls, it can build. It's frustrating when you're struggling, but at the same time you can't put into your head, 'Man, I'm really struggling. It was only 29 at-bats. It's different if it's 250 at-bats and you're struggling. I just took it for what it was: I didn't get hits in the last few games, but I was looking forward to the next one."
There is still no official word on how much longer Dirks will rehab with the Mud Hens. Nevin noted that the Hens have Wednesday off while the Tigers remain on the road; Nevin said he thought Dirks' situation would be updated before the Mud Hens play on Thursday.
"The objective was to come down here and play, and that's what I'm doing -- and that's what I'm focused on," Dirks said. "When everybody feels like it's time [to be called up], it will happen. Injury-wise I can get through games and pretty much play every day at this point. Hitting-wise, I'm right on the brink, I think. This was a good day, and it just has to translate into the next day."
Danny Worth had just one hit in four at-bats for the Mud Hens Tuesday, but it still was a big day. Worth's fielder's choice ground ball in the first produced a run, as did a groundout in the fourth. In the third pounded a 1-0 pitch from Louisville reliever Travis Webb over the fence in left-center for his fifth home run of the season.
Worth's five RBIs are a career-best. He now is batting .283 with five home runs and 13 RBIs in 33 games for the Mud Hens.
"My swing felt good," he said. "The home run was a good pitch to hit, and I got into a good position to hit it. My body was in balance in stuff, and Boom! It went."
Worth has been optioned to Toledo by the Tigers four times this season, the most-recent coming July 23. He said he tries to take advantage of his time with the Mud Hens to sharpen his skills for when he returns to Detroit.
"It's good to get consistent at-bats and work on stuff," Worth said. "[Hitting coach Leon] 'Bull' [Durham] sees stuff, and I can adjust on a daily basis, and that's easier here than when you haven't played for a week. Hitters make adjustments every game, every at-bat, every pitch. You're trying to get that good feeling, and whatever gives you a good feeling is what works."
Worth is starting to heat up as he returns to everyday action. In his first five games since his recent demotion Worth went 3-for-17 (.176); in the last four contests he has gone 5-for-15 (.333).
"He put a change into one," Nevin said of Worth. The big thing was he got runners in from third with less than two outs (on the two ground-outs). We haven't taken good at-bats in those situations, so when Danny is able to get two in with those at-bats, that's huge.
"It usually takes [Worth] a couple of days. When he gets called up to Detroit he doesn't play much, but usually after a few days here it starts clicking for him."
Click here to read Tuesday's in-game blog. Click here to read an analysis of Drew Smyly and his start for the Mud Hens Tuesday.