Dirks adjusting to designated-hitter role

Dirks adjusting to designated-hitter role

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."