Dirks Raises Stock For Tigers With Winter Performance





DETROIT—Before last season began, Andy Dirks was not considered one of the Tigers' top prospects.

That won't be the case this season, as the 25-year-old outfielder's recent fine performances—including a .296/.352/.466 overall line in 476 at-bats in 2010—have earned him a more prominent place in Detroit's plans.

Dirks, an eighth-round pick in 2008, started out hot in his first sint with Double-A Erie in 2009, but his numbers cooled as the season progressed and he finished at .255/.323/.349 in 98 games.

Dirks returned to Erie a different hitter to start 2010. He hit .278/.342/.425 in another 98 games, nearly doubling his home run total from six to 11 while also increasing his doubles total from 14 to 20. He also showed speed by stealing 19 bases.

In August a shortage of bodies pushed him up to Triple-A Toledo, and Dirks thrived with the Mud Hens. He batted .375/.398/.648 in 22 games, hammering 10 doubles, a triple and four home runs. Dirks also showed the ability to play both left and center, making several highlight-worthy catches while throwing out three baserunners. He finished with 30 doubles, 15 homers and 22 stolen bases in 26 tries overall between his two stops.

"If things had gone according to the plan before the season started, he wouldn't have been here," Toledo manager Larry Parrish said. "But he looked pretty good. He looked good in the outfield and made some plays out there. He showed a lot of energy, too."

A late-season injury kept him from playing in the Arizona Fall League, but Dirks picked up where he left off by tearing up the Dominican League for Toros del Este. He batted .315/.372/.533 in 46 games, finishing third in the batting race and tying for third with 26 RBIs. He also led the league in triples (seven) and had five home runs.

TIGER TALES

• The Tigers signed Al Albuquerque, an injury-plagued righthander with the Cubs and Rockies, to a major league contract. The 24-year-old had a 3.28 ERA in 17 relief appearances for Aguilas Cibaenas in the Dominican League, striking out 27 in 25 innings.

• Another young pitcher who fared well in winter ball was righthander Robbie Weinhardt, who went 1-1, 0.59 with eight saves in 15 1⁄3 innings for San Juan in the Puerto Rican League.