DETROIT -- As expected, Austin Jackson, who has been sidelined since May 17 with an abdominal strain, did not return to the Tigers' lineup Friday, his first day eligible to be activated from the disabled list.
Neither Jackson nor manager Jim Leyland had a timetable on when the center fielder will return. But after being evaluated Friday, Jackson reported he was pain free, and it's now all about how quickly he can get back into baseball shape without pushing it.
"I think it will be a true day-to-day thing now, because we kind of got that pain out of there, which was something that was there before," Jackson said. "It's just definitely feeling better, and I think that kind of getting a feel for it and how it feels during activity, I'll get a better idea."
Jackson was sent back to Detroit during the team's 10-game road trip and had been mostly resting and icing the area up until Thursday, when the 25-year-old said he did some conditioning to try to loosen up the muscle.
There were no ill effects, and now Jackson will continue to increase the workload.
"We're just going to get it loose and try to get back into some physical activity and see how it feels from there," he said.
Laird exits from opener with tight hamstring
DETROIT -- An hour away from Comerica Park, Triple-A Toledo outfielder Matt Young was shaking hands with teammates after leaving the Mud Hens' game early. According to the Toledo Blade, he was on his way to the Tigers, though the back half of the roster move wasn't known.
Something seemingly happened along the way. It might well have been backup catcher Gerald Laird's tweaked hamstring Friday night, the latest addition to the Tigers' lengthy injury list.
The Tigers expect Laird to be out until Tuesday. As for the expected roster move, it didn't happen. All manager Jim Leyland could say about it was that plans change, which seemingly said a lot.
"Sometimes you just have to put things on hold," Leyland said. "Your plans get derailed once in a while, when certain things happen during the course of a game."
Laird started at designated hitter for the second time in three days to put a right-handed bat in the injury-depleted Tigers lineup against Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia. He was trying to leg out an infield single in the sixth inning and spark a Tigers rally when he felt his right hamstring, the same hammy he tweaked just before Opening Day.
"I just felt a tweak," he said.
It was the tweak, he said, that led him to slide headfirst into first base, usually a no-no for a baserunner. First-base umpire Bob Davidson called him safe, but Laird immediately came up limping.
Don Kelly pinch-ran for Laird at first base. Jhonny Peralta pinch-hit for Kelly next time up in the eighth.
Laird was the second Tigers catcher to leave a game with injury in as many days. All-Star catcher Alex Avila left Thursday's game at Boston after a foul tip from Ryan Sweeney hit him in his mask and knocked his helmet down onto his nose, causing a gash and raising fears of a possible concussion.
Avila, who left Thursday's game as a precaution, showed no symptoms of a concussion and pinch-hit Friday.
Coincidentally, the Tigers called up a third catcher, Omir Santos, on Wednesday. He was brought up to allow Leyland to use one of his other backstops at designated hitter without worrying about what to do if his other catcher was injured. Santos started behind the plate Friday for starting pitcher Casey Crosby in his Major League debut.
It's a rare situation for the Tigers to have three catchers. With the Tigers set to face right-handed starters for at least the next five days, they might not need that right-handed hitter much longer, especially while Andy Dirks remains out. But with Laird out, they need the third catcher.
"We're fighting through a lot of things right now," Leyland said, "but that's exactly what you have to do. You have to fight through them. We're just getting injury after injury, day after day. We're trying to improvise on a daily basis."
Leyland puts Santos behind dish in opener
DETROIT -- Luckily for Alex Avila and the injury-riddled Tigers, the only lingering effects of a foul ball off the catcher's face mask, which drew blood and forced Avila to exit Thursday night's game, is a scar across the bridge of his nose.
Avila said he was fine after Thursday's game, but his name didn't appear in the lineup Friday against the Yankees. However, manager Jim Leyland said it had nothing to do with his health.
"I discussed it with some people, and I just thought that [Omir] Santos has a feel for [starter Casey Crosby]," Leyland said. "He's been catching him, and it gets a right-handed bat in the lineup. That's why that decision was made."
Filling in for Doug Fister, who is back on the 15-day disabled list with the same left rib cage muscle strain, Crosby made his Major League debut in the series opener vs. New York.
Santos' familiarity with the rookie left-hander, along with Avila's injury and .143 career batting average against Yankees starter CC Sabathia, made Leyland decide Santos would be the best start at catcher, with Gerald Laird at DH to add another right-handed-hitter.
Although Laird knows the tendencies of the Yankees' hitters better, the skipper didn't want to overwhelm his rookie pitcher.
"You're going to put too much on [Crosby's] plate by saying, 'This is the only place you can throw it to get him out,' and I don't want to put all that on the kid," Leyland said. "Just let him go out, throw his pitches, let Santos call the game, and see what happens. I don't think you can over-complicate it."
Avila was available to pinch-hit, if necessary. When asked when he thinks he'll return, the 25-year-old backstop said "Oh, I'm definitely going tomorrow. I can go today, but they didn't want to push it. But I'll definitely be in there tomorrow."
Ailing Dirks misses third straight game
DETROIT -- Andy Dirks just can't catch a break.
After suffering a left hamstring injury earlier in the season and missing eight games, the outfielder is now dealing with a sore right Achilles tendon, which caused him to miss his third consecutive game Friday night.
What began as a precautionary measure to hold him out of the lineup has become concerning enough that an MRI and an X-ray were ordered for the outfielder to "make sure it's nothing major." Prior to Friday's game, Dirks was still waiting on the results.
Manager Jim Leyland said Thursday night after the team's 7-3 win against the Red Sox that Dirks reported his injury was actually worse the second day.
"It was pretty sore and stiff, and there was some pain walking," Dirks said. "But it's feeling better today, and I'll just keep treating it and hopefully get through with no problems."
The injury comes at a tough time for the Tigers, who have been without leadoff hitter Austin Jackson since May 17. Jackson and Dirks are two of the team's hottest hitters, batting .331 and .328 on the season, respectively.
Dirks had taken over the left-field duties and found a home batting No. 2 in the order after recovering from his earlier hamstring injury.
"It's always frustrating being hurt," Dirks said. "But there's really nothing I feel like I an do differently to keep it from happening. I'm just going to try and get healthy now."
Berry looking to stick when Jackson returns
DETROIT -- When Austin Jackson does finally return to the lineup, manager Jim Leyland still has no idea what he's going to do with Quintin Berry.
"You guys are getting way ahead of yourselves," said Leyland when asked of his plan prior to Friday's game. "Let's not go there. Let's just see how it plays out. We'll see who's healthy, who's playing, who's not playing. Who's doing good, who's not doing good. But [Berry has] done well."
In nine games replacing Jackson, Berry entered Friday's series opener vs. the Yankees hitting .333, with an on-base percentage of .395 and five stolen bases. And the 27-year-old has played above-average defense as well.
Leyland said he wouldn't rule out Berry taking over left or right field when Jackson returns. When Berry spoke to the media Friday, he wouldn't rule out playing any position in the field.
"[I] try to do everything I possibly can," Berry said. "If they need me to play first, I'll play first. If they need me to play short, I'll play short. It doesn't matter. I'm trying to show them everything I can do so I'll stay as long as I possibly can."
Berry now gets his first chance to hear some cheers from the home crowd and show Tigers fans what he can do playing center field at Comerica Park, where the wall stretches back to 420 feet.
"I hear tons of stories of everybody talking how big it is," Berry said. "It should be fun. Make a couple people upset out there."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. Anthony Odoardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.