LAKELAND, Fla. -- Tigers left fielder Andy Dirks will undergo back surgery Monday and is expected to miss about 12 weeks.
Dirks, who was slated to start in a left-field platoon alongside Rajai Davis, will have to go through three weeks of complete rest and three weeks of therapy before he can begin baseball activities. Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski was hopeful that Dirks would be back on the field for Detroit in three months.
The procedure is called microdiscectomy, the same operation that Detroit manager Brad Ausmus had in 2010. As Ausmus explained it, a fragment of the disk between Dirks' L4 and L5 vertebrae tore away from the rest of the disk, so that piece must be removed to alleviate the pain. The operation will be performed by Dr. Thomas Tolli in St. Petersburg, Fla.
"I certainly feel bad for Andy. I think Andy was looking forward to this year, and I've been in his shoes with the exact same surgery," Ausmus said. "It can be a long three months of not playing for your team, and the first three weeks of not being able to do anything at all, it can bring your spirits down.
"I feel bad for Andy, but every team has injuries that occur, and as a team, you can't focus on the fact that you lost a player. You just play the game of baseball. Hopefully, we can fill Andy's shoes while he's gone and hopefully he gets better sooner than later."
Dombrowski said the 28-year-old Dirks has experienced some back soreness since high school, and though there was no specific incident that set it off, the pain grew more severe over the past two days. Dirks saw a doctor on Monday and a specialist on Tuesday before deciding to undergo surgery.
Dombrowski said the Tigers plan to fill Dirks' spot internally, which would seemingly put Davis in line to play left field every day. While Davis has hit .294/.354/.425 against left-handed pitchers in his career, he's managed just a .255/.297/.353 batting line against right-handers, which made him a natural complement for the lefty-hitting Dirks.
"We didn't sign [Davis] with that intent [to play every day], but that'll be up to [Ausmus] and how he decides to play him," Dombrowski said.
Dombrowski also mentioned Don Kelly, Ezequiel Carrera and Trevor Crowe as potential replacements, and Ausmus said the club has already talked about giving utility man Steve Lombardozzi more time in left field. Given the versatility of players like Lombardozzi and Kelly, Dirks' injury could open up a spot on the 25-man roster for either an infielder or outfielder.
"There's some flexibility," Ausmus said. "Right now I'm not focusing on opening up an infield spot. I'm focused on who's going to be playing left field for the Tigers. Obviously, we have Rajai. If Rajai plays well, he may be the only guy we need."