After missing '14, Dirks close to resuming baseball activities

After missing '14, Dirks close to resuming baseball activities

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Blue Jays outfielder Andy Dirks is expected to resume baseball activities in approximately seven to 10 days as he continues to recover from a back injury that kept him out for the 2014 season.

Dirks underwent back surgery last March and also dealt with a hamstring injury that limited him to 14 rehab games. He signed a Minor League contract during the offseason and isn't taking part in big league camp.

The 29-year-old could receive an invitation to Major League Spring Training at some point over the next month, but first will have to prove the injury woes are a thing of the past. Dirks' return to health might allow him to become a candidate for the starting job in left field, but manager John Gibbons didn't seem overly optimistic about that possibility.

"No, I wouldn't think," Gibbons said when asked if Dirks could be considered for a spot on the Opening Day roster. "He still has some time he's going to need, but that could change."

Dirks' availability became a hot topic of conversation after it was revealed Thursday morning that Michael Saunders tore the meniscus in his left knee. Saunders is expected to be out until the All-Star break because of the injury he sustained while shagging fly balls at the club's Minor League complex earlier this week.

Kevin Pillar appears to be the early favorite to win the job in Saunders' absence. Other candidates include Chris Dickerson and Ezequiel Carrera. Chris Colabello and Danny Valencia also could receive some consideration.

Dirks is a career .276 hitter with a .745 OPS in 297 career games with the Tigers. He also has 24 home runs and 100 RBIs over parts of three seasons in the Major Leagues.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.