Detroit — Tigers manager Brad Ausmus wasn’t around last season to see an injured Miguel Cabrera play his way through the end of the season. Despite an injury that required core-muscle repair in the offseason, Cabrera finished another MVP season but clearly wasn’t at 100 percent down the stretch and into the playoffs.
Ausmus would like to keep Cabrera healthy, but got a scare when Cabrera pulled up after lacing a single to left in the seventh inning on Sunday against the Rangers. Cabrera made it to first base but was pulled from the game for a pinch-runner.
“I feel better,” Cabrera said. “It was a little cramp but they decided to take me out.”
It was a precautionary move, but Ausmus didn’t want to take any chances with Cabrera’s health, especially with the Tigers trailing by 10 runs.
“He said he could stay in. If this was Sept. 19 and an important game and we weren’t down by 10, it would have been a different story,” Ausmus said. “There was no reason to take a risk — might as well just get him out of there.”
Cabrera went 4-for-12 in the series and had a single and a walk on Sunday. After hitting .276 with two home runs and 15 RBIs in the first month of the season, Cabrera has hit .372 in May with five homers and 27 RBIs.
As if the bullpen issues weren’t bad enough, Ausmus has to monitor Joba Chamberlain, who suffered a right-ankle bruise in the eighth, which happened as he was covering the base on a grounder to first.
“The concern level is low,” Ausmus said. “The runner’s foot hit him so it’s more of a contusion.”
Chamberlain gave up two hits and a walk and recorded two outs. His status is day-to-day.
Shortstop Andrew Romine ended his 0-for-22 drought on Friday with a home run — the first of his career. He added two hits Saturday and two on Sunday and finished the series 5-for-10.
Even after the two hits Saturday, Romine was still looking to correct his swing and try to lift his average back above .200.
“I know he was working with (hitting coach) Wally (Joyner) after the game (Saturday) despite the fact he had some good at-bats. There was something he felt wasn’t quite right,” Ausmus said. “He took 10 minutes to try and fine-tune something. He certainly looked a lot more comfortable at the plate — whether it was psychological, physical I couldn’t tell you.
“I was hoping that maybe the home run would be the start of something good and it looks like it’s moving in that direction — and I hope it continues.”
Phil Coke had been struggling for much of the season, but seems to be trying to turn things around. In two combined appearances against the Rangers, he didn’t allow a run and gave up just one hit and a walk, with two strikeouts.
With the bullpen logging heavy innings this week, Coke had four appearances this week, including two innings on Monday against the Indians and another 12⁄3 on Wednesday. He followed with 11⁄3 perfect innings on Thursday.
“He’s definitely throwing better his last couple outings, for sure. Maybe there’s something to be said for him being a little tired because his velocity was still good. Maybe his command is a little better; he doesn’t try to overthrow it,” Ausmus said. “He’s really helped us out a lot — we all know how short the bullpen’s been the last week; he’s given us some big outs. The last couple of games probably have been his best of the year.”
Rookie Nick Castellanos has been up and down at the plate with a .233 average. He has struggled of late, going 1-for-11 in the first three games against the Rangers. On Sunday, he had two walks and a single in the eighth.
It’s a switch for Castellanos, who has 37 strikeouts and a .258 on-base percentage.
“The slider down middle of the way is giving him a little bit of trouble. He’s got to learn to get that pitch up in the zone,” Ausmus said. “Teams are going to see that on video or scouting reports and continue to attack that, so we’ve talked about him having to make adjustments and get that pitch up or lay off it — or a combination of the two.”
Castellanos had just five walks in 39 games but seems to be developing better recognition and patience, with the two walks on Sunday and one on Saturday, with just one strikeout.
Tigers at Athletics
Series: Four games at Athletics, O.co Coliseum, Oakland, Calif.
First pitch: 4:05 p.m. Monday; 10:05 Tuesday-Wednesday; 3:35 Thursday.
TV/radio: FSD/1270-AM and 97.1-FM
Probables: Monday, LHP Drew Smyly (2-2, 2.97) vs. LHP Tommy Milone (2-3, 3.99); Tuesday, RHP Max Scherzer (6-1, 2.59) vs. RHP Sonny Gray (5-1, 1.99); Wednesday, RHP Anibal Sanchez (2-2, 2.83) vs. LHP Scott Kazmir (5-2, 2.56); Thursday, RHP Rick Porcello (7-2), 2.91 vs. RHP Jesse Chavez (4-1, 2.54)
Race for the top: The Athletics get their first matchup since last season's A.L. Division Series.