By Ashley Dunkak
COMERICA PARK (CBS DETROIT) – Nothing like a two-out, three-RBI double late in the game with a crowd of 30,000 chanting “MVP! MVP! MVP!” to make everyone forget about everything else.
Well, almost everyone.
Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland said he was less enthralled with Miguel Cabrera’s pressure-packed, game-sealing hit than he was to hear that the superstar slugger had a clean bill of health after a bit of a scare the day before.
When Cabrera began hobbling around after the first swing of his ninth-inning at bat Tuesday, a grimace on his face, Leyland and trainer Kevin Rand held their breath just like everyone else.
“I wasn’t sure what it was,” Leyland said. “I thought it might have been his knee at first. I wasn’t sure what it was.”
As it turns out, Cabrera had aggravated the same old injury, an abdominal wall strain, and also tweaked his groin, but Wednesday he came into the clubhouse saying he felt better than he had before Tuesday’s game.
As widespread debate continues as to whether the Tigers should put Cabrera on the disabled list to try to let him fully heal or let him keep playing through his injuries, Rand contributes to that decision on a daily basis.
Currently leading the major leagues in batting average, on-base percentage, RBIs and second in home runs, Cabrera has dealt with the abdominal injury since late July, missing seven games in a 10-day stretch.
Needless to say, the Tigers want him in the lineup. On the other hand, they want him as healthy as possible for the rest of the season and for the playoffs. Then again, they have to get there first, and, obviously, having their best player absent in division series makes winning the American League Central more difficult.
For now, as they do with almost all players, the Tigers are deferring to Cabera’s judgment on whether he is good to play.
“If he comes in and tells me that, ‘Hey, I can’t go,’ well, you can’t go,” Rand said. “Likewise, there have been a couple times where he felt that he was maybe okay and we felt, maybe he’d do better with another day, and give him a couple of days.”
Most of the time, though, Cabrera wants to play, injury or not, and if he says he is fine to be on the field, more often than not he plays.
“The athlete’s paramount,” Rand said, “They can make an intelligent decision on how they feel, whether they think they can perform or can’t perform. The way I like to say it, it doesn’t matter what I think from that standpoint. If you tell me that you can play and you can perform … it’s not my place to take that away from you.”
The team has had discussions regarding the possibility of putting Cabrera on the disabled list, but between all the different factors, the decision has been to keep Cabrera around.
“When it first happened, let’s say we’d disabled him,” Rand said. “He would then have been on the disabled list when we played Cleveland. And let’s say, playing devil’s advocate, a week after you disable him, he’s fine. Well now you’re in trouble because everybody’s all, ‘Well, geez, he could have played those games.’
“You could have disabled him after he tweaked it in that Philadelphia series and he would have missed that whole road trip where he obviously played very, very well,” Rand continued. “It’s not a black and white issue.”
The incident Tuesday was the first time Cabrera had tweaked the injury at the plate rather than in the field, Rand said, but it did not keep him out of the lineup Wednesday. In fact, Cabrera was not even questionable enough to delay Leyland’s posting of the lineup. Thanks to Cabrera’s dramatic hit, the decision can easily be labeled a good one.
With the injuries Cabrera is battling, though, whether he is healthy enough to play is often a daily consideration.
“Every day we discuss how we’re going to treat him, what we need to do, if there’s anything we need to do differently treatment-wise, exercise-wise, stretching-wise as it’s taken on a little different symptoms,” Rand said.
Cabrera has not missed a game since Aug. 3, but the Tigers are ready if he does need time on the disabled list.
“We’re prepared at any time, if we had to lose him, we’ve discussed that.”