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Andy Dirks Injury: Tigers OF Has Walking Boot Removed, Not Expected Back Soon

Faced with a surprisingly long rehab process, Detroit's Andy Dirks received a bit of good news on Thursday as his doctor decided to remove the walking boot on his right foot.

Even though the 26-year-old outfielder is still not yet cleared to resume baseball-related activities, he hopes to prove without a doubt that he's ready to begin more strenuous training in the coming weeks. "It feels better," Dirks told MLive.com. "It's not as tender, it's not as sore."

In response to the timetable the team might be looking at, Tigers manager Jim Leyland hardly sounded optimistic. "He’s going to have to go out and play a while because he’s been out for a long time," Leyland said. "I don’t know when that’s going to be."

The smart money would appear to be an early-to-mid-August return at best, meaning that the Tigers would likely not have Dirks in uniform before the July 31 trade deadline. And without a productive hitter like Dirks in the lineup for a key portion of the divisional race (the part before the deadline, that is), Detroit's hand might just be forced to add another outfielder at the end of July if he isn't making enough progress.

For more on Dirks' injury, stay right here with this StoryStream. For more on the Tigers, head on over to Bless You Boys. And for more MLB news and analysis, be sure to check in with Baseball Nation.