July 18, 2014 at 9:13 pm

Slight pain sidetracks Andy Dirks' return to Tigers

Outfielder Andy Dirks was hitting .313 through six games of his rehabilitation assignment at Single A Lakeland. (Elizabeth Conley / Detroit News)

Detroit — How badly hurt is outfielder Andy Dirks?

This should put his situation in the proper perspective: If a position player had been forced out of the lineup with the back condition that has prompted the Tigers to halt Dirks’ injury rehab assignment, he’d be regarded as “day to day,” trainer Kevin Rand said Friday.

It would not be serious enough for the player to go on the disabled list.

But because the Tigers can’t waste a day of Dirks’ rehab assignment, during which they wanted him to play 20 games, they’re not going to let the clock tick down while he can’t play.

“He has muscular soreness around the surgical site,” Rand said, referring to the lower back surgery that landed Dirks on the 60-day disabled list March 29. “It’s not unusual because of the increase in his activity. No matter what you do practice-wise, even simulated game-wise, it can’t duplicate game action as far as intensity. It’s the same as when guys come from rehab assignments back to the big leagues.

“The day it happened, he felt he couldn’t play the next day, so we said ‘We’ll get you right, then send you back out again.’ ”

Dirks hit .313 at Lakeland through six games of his rehab.

“If it wasn’t for the fact he’s missed so much time already, and that this is kind of his spring training, we’d just skip a couple of days of a normal rehab assignment,” Rand said. “But he needs to play in every game he can. We can’t afford to lose days.”

Rand said Dirks thought the soreness he was experiencing affected his “first-step quickness,” so Rand said, “Let’s get that back. Within a week or so, I think we’ll see him playing again.”

Can you hear me now?

Right-hander Drew VerHagen makes his debut today against the Indians, but only after the message telling him he was being called up went nowhere.

“My phone was dead,” Verhagen said.

You were being called up to the majors — and your phone was dead?

VerHagen didn’t know there was an unanswered message on it from Toledo manager Larry Parrish.

And, above all, he didn’t know, at least until his phone got charged, that a dream had come true.

His dream of getting to the big leagues.

“It took a few hours,” VerHagen said about charging his phone.

A corresponding move to make room for VerHagen on the 40-man roster will be announced today.

Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said he was impressed with VerHagen’s “poise” in spring training, as well as a combination of his “sinker and curveball.”

Verhagen, 6-7 with 3.67 ERA at Triple A Toledo, will start the first game of a split doubleheader.

It was originally thought left-hander Robbie Ray would be the one called up from Toledo for the one start, but Ray struggled his last outing.

“I think so, but I’m prepared for it,” VerHagen replied when asked if his debut in the majors was happening before he thought it would.

He was a fourth-round selection out of Vanderbilt in 2012.

With his phone charged, VerHagen got the message two days ago, plenty of time, he said, for a group of a 20-25 relatives and friends to book a flight from Texas to Detroit.

tom.gage@detroitnews.com

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Indians at Tigers (DH)

First pitch: 1:08 and 7:08 p.m., Comerica Park, Detroit

TV/radio: FSD (Game 1), FS1 (Game 2)/97.1

Scouting report

GAME 1

RHP Corey Kluber (9-6, 3.01), Indians: Has won three of his last four starts, and is 7-3 in 14 starts since May 4 with a 2.57 ERA.

RHP Drew Verhagen (first start), Tigers: Making his debut after going 6-7 record in 19 starts at Toledo with a 3.67 ERA.

GAME 2

RHP Zach McAllister (3-5, 5.63) Indians: Not having even close to the season it looked like he might when he was 3-0 after his first four starts. He’s 0-5 in seven starts since then with 8.22 ERA.

RHP Max Scherzer (11-3, 3.35), Tigers: Tough again home and away, but especially at home (7-1).