Dirks' right knee feeling better, but not 100 percent

Dirks' right knee feeling better, but not 100 percent

DETROIT -- Andy Dirks says his sore right knee has felt better the last couple of days than it has in the last month since he bruised it running into the left-field fence at Joker Marchant Stadium in Spring Training. That would raise optimism that he'll be able to return to the starting lineup Monday night against the Twins.

He was available Saturday and Sunday, manager Jim Leyland said, but that doesn't mean he's healthy. He wasn't needed in Sunday's starting lineup because the Braves started left-hander Mike Minor.

"He's available, but not 100 percent," Leyland said Sunday.

Leyland doesn't believe Dirks has been fully healthy since the collision in Spring Training. He has had better days and worse ones, but hasn't completely gotten past it, which explains why Leyland has rested Dirks in some games against right-handed pitchers in favor of Don Kelly.

"It's just something where we've got to get through it and go from there," Dirks said.

Dirks is getting through, but he hasn't thrived, at least not at the plate. He entered Sunday batting .167 (8-for-48) with a double and four RBIs, though he has stolen two bases in as many attempts.

"I'm not going to make excuses for why I'm not hitting," he said.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.