For the first three months of the season, the Detroit Tigers have been able to get by with only one consistent left-handed hitter, which would be the switch-hitting Victor Martinez. The Tigers do have the left-handed hitting Alex Avila, who is a threat to hit for extra-bases at times, but his .230 batting average and 33 percent strikeout rate are proof that he has been quite inconsistent. After that, the Tigers’ only other left-handed hitters are utility man Don Kelly and the light-hitting, switch-hitting Andrew Romine.
The Tigers are, however, still hoping to get left-handed outfielder Andy Dirks back in the coming weeks. Dirks has been sidelined ever since undergoing back surgery in March. If one had to make an educated guess, the Dirks that the Tigers will see upon his return will most likely resemble the player the Tigers saw in 2011 and 2013, who hit in the .250 range with single-digit home run numbers. It might be a stretch to expect to see the Dirks who swatted his way to a .322 batting average and an .857 OPS during his career-best 2012 season.
However, even the 2011/2013 Dirks would still be an improvement over the left-handed hitters the Tigers currently have who are not named Martinez.
Dirks will most likely be replacing Romine or Kelly on the Tigers’ 25-man roster. Many believe that it will probably be Kelly, but it could possibly be Romine if the Tigers are confident enough in going with Kelly as their backup shortstop, which is unlikely, but possible; either way, Dirks will be an improvement. Romine and Kelly are currently batting .215 and .233, respectively. Furthermore, Romine and Kelly have combined for just eight extra-base hits all season. For as much as it seemed like Dirks underperformed in 2013, he still hit 16 doubles, two triples and nine homers. Romine and Kelly will not come near those numbers this season.
Upon his return, Dirks can be expected to give the Tigers a solid part-time outfielder, and although the Tigers should not set their expectations too high for him, it would hardly be shocking to see him leapfrog Avila as the team’s second-best left-handed hitter.