Concerns still linger about Miguel Cabrera

Concerns still linger about Miguel Cabrera

Published Sep. 22, 2013 6:36 p.m. ET

DETROIT -- The way things have been going, it's doubtful that Miguel Cabrera will be able to get 100 percent healthy before the end of the season.

Of course, the Tigers and Cabrera both hope the end of their season doesn't come for several weeks.

Cabrera missed his 13th game of the season Sunday, a 6-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox.

With only six games remaining in the regular season, for the first time since his rookie year in 2003, Cabrera will play fewer than 150 games.

In 2003, Cabrera came up to the Marlins in June and helped them win a World Series.

Since then, he's played between 157-161 games every season except 2010, when he played 150.

Cabrera has been battling an abdominal/hip flexor strain that is now affecting his groin, a problem that originally cropped up right before the All-Star break.

"You’ve seen what this guy’s been going through," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "It’s obvious he’s been playing hurt. It’s obvious he’s been handicapped. But it’s one of those things where, (Sunday), he actually felt pretty decent. But there was no chance he was going to play.

"It’s just kind of hit and miss. You’re always concerned about it, though, when one of your star players is not 100 percent."

Cabrera still leads the American League with a .349 batting average and 136 RBIs. He trails Baltimore's Chris Davis 51-44 in home runs.

Cabrera left Saturday night's comeback game after the ninth inning with soreness in the groin area, according to the team.

"I want to be healthy, even if I'm 0-for-4 I want to be out there 100 percent and play," Cabrera said. "To me, it's not frustrating at all. I want to be out there and win games, try to clinch our division."

The Tigers' magic number remains 2 after their loss Sunday and the Cleveland Indians' win over the Houston Astros.

Torii Hunter said that while Cabrera said he's not frustrated that he can't do the things he normally does, it does bother him.

"He wants to run better, and he gets upset when he can’t run, and he gets thrown out," Hunter said. "He gets really upset. You guys might not see it, but it’s killing him. He wants to be well.

"He’s going to do whatever it takes to get out there and be ready for the postseason. It’s important to have him now, but I think it’s even more important for the postseason. Because we’re trying to win. We need him."

The Tigers are 10-4 this season when Cabrera does not start.

"This year when he's been out we've been able to win a bunch of games," Alex Avila said. "Guys, I think, just because he's out, know that OK, without him, whatever opportunities we get, we gotta make sure we take advantage of because we can't rely on him coming up in a big situation. That's how we've been able to win all those games without him."

But the Tigers know the lineup has a very different look when Cabrera is not in it.

"He's our No. 3 hitter, Triple Crown winner, you want him in the lineup," Avila said.

Said Victor Martinez: "Any team needs the best right-handed hitter in the game right now. There's no lie, there's no secret about it."

Even when he's not 100 percent, Cabrera is better than most players in the big leagues.

"I want to stay positive," Cabrera said. "In the postseason I'm gonna be good. I'm not gonna say I'm gonna be 100 percent. I'm going to still play baseball. I'm going to still go out there and try to get back, make some plays, try to play baseball."

The other problem is that if you try to clinch the division and play without Cabrera the rest of the regular season, it could throw off his timing at the plate when he does play.

"If you can see my average, my production in September, I say yes," Cabrera said, acknowledging not playing affects him. "It's hard to take time off right now, this part of the season."

In August, Cabrera batted .356 with 11 home runs and 31 RBIs in 27 games, ridiculous numbers considering the injuries he had.

In September, Cabrera is hitting .264 with one home run and six RBIs in 16 games.

So what should the Tigers do?

"I’m open for suggestions, because I have no idea. This is a chance for fans to email me overnight, even though I don’t have an email," Leyland joked. "First of all, we have to get in. Then you might be able to rest him a day or so. But you have to be careful with that, because there’s four days after the season you don’t play, if you get in.

"You don’t want a guy going into the playoffs sitting seven out of eight days. Then he’s not sharp, maybe the timing’s a little off. That’s a Catch-22."

It looks like the Tigers will play Cabrera when they can and give him a break when they can.

But once the postseason comes, he'll just have to play through it and do the best he can as he's done for the last couple of months.

Rookie Bruce Rondon threw in the bullpen Sunday morning and things went well.

"If he comes back (Monday), everything is fine, there’s no lingering effects of airing it out on the side (Sunday), then I would think potentially he’d be ready to pitch on Tuesday," Leyland said. "But I can’t tell you exactly how he’s going to come in (Monday), because (Sunday) was the first day he’s aired it out, with the breaking ball."

Rondon has not pitched since Sept. 2 because of a tender right elbow.

The news seems to be a little more perplexing when it comes to left-hander Phil Coke.

Coke went three days without picking up a ball and then threw Sunday.

"Coke threw hard, but the elbow was a little tight," Leyland said. "I don’t know what that exactly means."

Coke said he believes he's going to try to throw again Monday but he's not sure about what his status will be.

Coke complained about some elbow soreness after pitching in Wednesday's 8-0 loss to the Seattle Mariners.

The ailment is being called left flexor mass tendinitis.

Jose Iglesias missed his third straight game after being struck on the left hand Thursday.

"I learned a long time ago, when a guy’s hurt, he’s hurt," Leyland said. "He was able to pinch run (Sunday), if we got in that situation, so that’s a little bit of a good sign. Probably not able to swing the bat yet."