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Andy Dirks to miss 12 weeks after back surgery

The Tigers outfielder will be out until at least May while rehabbing from back surgery.

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Tigers outfielder Andy Dirks will have back surgery and miss 12 weeks, according to Chris Iott of MLive.com.

The injury didn't arise from any specific incident, but per Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski, has been an issue that Dirks has dealt with since high school.

Dirks was penciled in as the Tigers' starting left fielder heading into 2014, with Rajai Davis expected to earn some at-bats against left-handed pitching. Now, however, the Tigers will be turning to other internal candidates, along with Davis, to help fill in for Dirks while he is rehabbing, according to Dombrowski.

Dirks will need six weeks before being healthy enough to resume baseball activities and another six weeks before he should be ready to play again, making a return sometime in May the most likely outcome.

The 28-year-old had an up-and-down season in 2013, hitting .256/.323/.363 with nine home runs in 116 games out in left field. This came after a strong 2012 campaign in which Dirks batted .322/.370/.487 with eight home runs over 344 plate appearances in his first full major league season.

Outfielder Don Kelly swapped time with Dirks out in left field during 2013, and he is the most likely candidate to fill in for Dirks. The 34-year-old Kelly hit .222/.309/.343 in 251 plate appearances for Detroit last season.

The Tigers signed Davis to a two-year, $10 million contract back in December specifically to give the team more depth in the outfield, which will be even more crucial now that Dirks is out for an extended period of time. Davis had spent the past three years in Toronto and hit .260/.312/.375 with 45 stolen bases for the Blue Jays in 2013. The 33-year-old has been better against left-handed pitchers throughout his career, owning a .294/.354/.425 mark against lefties over his eight-year career.

As a result, the Tigers planned to platoon Davis with Dirks, who performs better against right-handers. That plan will have to be put on the back burner for the time being, however, as Dirks works his way back to the majors.

The injury isn't a huge loss for a talented Tigers lineup, especially this early in the season, but it well test the club's outfield depth until Dirks is able to return to full health.