DETROIT -- According to manager Brad Ausmus, outfielder Andy Dirks has started "the very beginnings of baseball activities."
Dirks is on the 60-day disabled list, recovering from microdisectomy surgery on his back. Ausmus said the average time for a return from the surgery is about three months, which would have Dirks back in action sometime in June. He appears to be on track.
"I texted him the other day," Ausmus said. "He threw the other day for the first time, and he can take dry swings -- just swing a bat easy. So that's where he's at."
Anibal, Putkonen slated for May returns
DETROIT -- Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez and long reliever Luke Putkonen are both slated for May returns.
By all indications, Sanchez's bullpen session on Friday went well.
Sanchez said Friday that the club is aiming for a May 18 return from the lacerated right middle finger injury that will cause him to miss at least two turns in the rotation. Rookie Robbie Ray, who debuted last week, will start in Sanchez's place again Sunday.
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said Saturday that the next step for Sanchez will be a simulated game at Camden Yards on Tuesday.
As for Putkonen, his most recent rehab assignment, which came Friday night with Triple-A Toledo, will likely be his penultimate stint.
Putkonen will next pitch on Tuesday night, again with Toledo. But this time, he'll try to stretch it to three innings.
"Should be, yeah," Ausmus said when asked if that Tuesday would be Putkonen's final rehab assignment. "If everything continues as it is right now."
In Friday night's outing, Putkonen allowed one run off two hits in two innings of work. He is recovering from right elbow inflammation.
Tigers remember Leyland's brief mound visits
DETROIT -- When former Tigers manager Jim Leyland paid a visit to the mound, he was typically succinct.
As reliever Phil Coke recalls, sometimes the meeting would be as brief as, "How ya doing? All right."
Catcher Alex Avila agreed, saying sometimes Leyland would stroll out from the dugout to say only four or five words.
Both Coke and Avila said they were never able to predict whether a visit from Leyland would end in a pitching change. With time, though, Avila was able to tell the hook was coming by the situation.
"Even if he had a guy warming, I knew when he was thinking about leaving him in or not," Avila said. "But then again, that's just playing under him, knowing him and knowing the situation."
• The Tigers are playing back-to-back day games again this weekend, and that means early wakeup calls. Ausmus was out of bed by 6:15 a.m. CT on Saturday to see his wife off to San Diego, where they have a home.
"When I played, the second day game was always the tougher one for me," Ausmus said. "The first day game, your body didn't realize it was tired yet. The second day game, it figured out that it was lacking sleep."
Matt Slovin is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.