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.