CLEVELAND -- Two games into his Minor League rehab assignment, Andy Dirks has shown no signs of trouble with his strained Achilles. The Tigers outfielder played seven innings Monday night for Triple-A Toledo, going 1-for-2 with two walks and a strikeout while running the bases and playing center field without any trouble.
Dirks accompanied the Mud Hens on the road to Columbus, where they'll play five games in four days against the Clippers.
The Tigers haven't announced a timetable on Dirks' stint, other than manager Jim Leyland saying it won't be a quick one. He missed about two months with what was expected to be a day-to-day Achilles injury, so he has time to make up.
Whenever he does come back, the Tigers have a decision to make on how to make room. With Omar Infante taking over at second base, Ryan Raburn is now an extra outfielder with Don Kelly. Kelly, like Dirks, bats left-handed. Neither can be optioned to the minors, essentially, given Raburn's right to block an assignment.
Reunited with Tigers, Infante feels at home
CLEVELAND -- Omar Infante had barely been in the visitors' clubhouse at Progressive Field for 10 minutes with his new teammates, or old teammates in some cases, when a reporter asked him about being with the Tigers again.
"I'm back home," Infante said. "I have a lot of friends here. I'm real happy. I know this organization."
And with that, any idea that it could be awkward for Infante returning to the same organization that traded him away five years ago went out the window.
He's a different player now than he was back in 2007, his last season in Detroit. The chance to play every day at one position in Florida over the last year and a half, he said, made him a better player, more confident, more comfortable.
In short, he became the player former Tigers officials expected when they signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela in 1999.
"I'm a lot more experienced," Infante said. "When the Tigers called me up to the big leagues, I was 20 years old. I learned a lot here because of [Placido] Polanco and [Carlos] Guillen. They helped me a lot."
His work with his swing and his glove in recent years, he said, has helped plenty.
Manager Jim Leyland, who used him as a utility player in 2006 and '07 behind Polanco and Guillen, is looking forward to plugging him in every day at second base, where Detroit's various starters had combined for an American League-low .201 batting average and a Major League-low .562 OPS.
"He's a very legitimate player," Leyland said of Infante. "I've always liked him. He's always been a talented player. He's got a little pop, keeps innings going. He's a calm player. He's very professional, goes about his business kind of quiet. He's a nice player. He's a nice fit for us."
With Tigers, Anibal could get first taste of playoffs
CLEVELAND -- Anibal Sanchez figured he would be leaving Florida soon once it became clear the Marlins weren't going to make a run at the playoffs. Once his trade to Detroit went down Monday afternoon, it took him a little longer to get out than he thought.
Sanchez and Omar Infante were scheduled on the same flight from Miami to Cleveland to meet up with the Tigers on the start of their road trip, but the flight was delayed. Then it was moved. Then it was gone.
"They delayed for an hour, but they moved it," Sanchez said. "They left without us."
They caught another flight out, but had to scramble from Miami to Fort Lauderdale International Airport to catch it. It ended up being a situation they could laugh about.
Sanchez was a teammate of Miguel Cabrera in Florida in 2006 and '07. Unlike Cabrera in the years since, Sanchez has never had the chance to in play in the heat of a playoff race for a first-place team.
He finally has his shot, back with Cabrera behind him at third base.
"It's really good. It's an opportunity for me to get to the playoffs," Sanchez said. "It would be my first playoff appearance. I just want to do my job for this team."
Winning more crucial to Santiago than regular role
CLEVELAND -- Ramon Santiago was Omar Infante's double-play partner with the Tigers in 2003, when they were both prospects. They were teammates on the Tigers bench for stints in '06 and '07, both trying to stick in the big leagues.
Santiago has been trying to get a starting job in Detroit since. He pretty much had it for the past few weeks, but now will be heading back to utility duty -- for Infante.
That's fine with him. Actually, he indicated it's easier for him that it's Infante taking over instead of somebody else.
"I knew the team was going to platoon me when I signed," Santiago said. "They gave me the opportunity [over the] last month to play. Whatever makes the team better, whatever it takes to go to the playoffs, I just want to win. It's better that it's Omar. I like that.
"It didn't come easy. He worked his way up for a long time, working hard. I'm happy to see him doing good."
Manager Jim Leyland said that Santiago will start at second only when Infante needs a day off. As for the other second baseman on the roster, Ryan Raburn will play almost exclusively in the outfield for now, starting in left field against left-handed pitchers.
Alburquerque set to begin rehab at Class A
CLEVELAND -- The Tigers appear to be done with their Trade Deadline dealings after acquiring Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez. That doesn't mean they're done adding players for the postseason. Al Alburquerque could be back soon enough.
Alburquerque would be returning from the disabled list, not an acquisition. Considering Alburquerque hasn't pitched since last postseason thanks to offseason elbow surgery, though, it feels like an addition.
The Tigers sent Alburquerque to Class A Lakeland on Tuesday to begin a Minor League rehab assignment. He'll likely get his initial outings in with the Flying Tigers while he stretches out his arm, then move up the system to face better competition.
The Tigers can keep him on rehab for up to 30 days. He might not get that full time, but it won't be a short stint at all, given the time he has missed.