August 24, 2014 at 1:00 am

Tigers don't believe Miguel Cabrera's sore ankle will become lingering issue

Minneapolis — The Tigers don’t expect this to become an issue with Miguel Cabrera.

But to a certain extent, it already has.

Cabrera didn’t start Sunday’s 13-4 victory because of a sore right ankle — after coming out of Saturday night’s game because of it.

Before it became official that Cabrera was not starting on Sunday, manager Brad Ausmus said the Tigers’ slugger was “going to test it out. There’s a little soreness.”

Ausmus said Cabrera hit first base hard with his foot while running out a double-play grounder to short Saturday night. In the eighth, after a single, Cabrera left the game for a pinch-runner.

He did not limp as much while leaving the field as he did after reaching the Tigers dugout.

“I think when he hit the base, he re-aggravated it, made it flare up,” Ausmus said. “When he does certain things, it makes it more unbearable — but at other times, it’s bearable.”

Meaning that “at other times” the ankle bothers Cabrera, but he can play with whatever discomfort it causes.

As it appears he intends to keep doing.

For instance, after Sunday’s game, Ausmus said, “I’d be shocked if he didn’t (play on Tuesday). I could even tell he wanted to play today, but I thought it was best to rest him. So did (trainer) Kevin Rand.”

When asked how far back the problem goes, Ausmus said he did not know — and Cabrera has made it known he does not like to talk about injuries.

The next question was about whether Cabrera’s ankle has played a role in his only having three home runs since July 1 — and none since Aug. 2.

“I don’t know,” Ausmus said. “I can’t answer that. I think it’s possible. He can’t keep his weight back. But Miggy’s swing is so good that even if it bothers him a little bit, he still has the ability to get hits.”

It’s been well documented that Cabrera’s power, in terms of home runs, is down. Traditionally, July and August are his thunder months — the time he hits the most home runs.

The three he’s hit this season since July 1 have come in 167 at-bats.

Last year, in his first 167 at-bats after July 1, Cabrera hit 18 home runs.

And while he recently had a flurry of four doubles in three games (and leads the American League with 40 doubles), they are the only four doubles he’s hit in his last 32 games.

So he’s clearly not been himself at the plate — even though he’s been able to maintain a .311 batting average.

That’s what he was hitting at the end of play on July 1 and it’s what he is hitting now.

But it’s not like Cabrera to not hit home runs this time of year — and it’s not like him to have only 22 RBIs in a span of 46 games, which is also the case since July 1.

But no wonder the Tigers are hoping two days of rest will help. They miss his production.

As Ausmus said after Sunday’s victory, in which the Tigers not only had 13 runs, but 18 hits, “You would never predict we’d score that many runs without Miggy in the lineup.”

Around the horn

Anibal Sanchez is progressing so steadily from a strained pectoral muscle that Ausmus would not rule him out as a possible starter for one of next Saturday’s two games in Chicago.

Justin Verlander, meanwhile, will start Friday night’s opener in Chicago on five days rest instead of Thursday’s day game at Comerica Park against the Yankees on four days rest — as the Tigers give him every opportunity to fully bounce back from his recent bout of shoulder soreness.

That, of course, would put rookie left-hander Kyle Lobstein on target to start Thursday — but “right now,” said Ausmus, “it’s to be determined.”

tom.gage@detroitnews.com
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Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera didn't start Sunday's game against the Twins because of a sore right ankle. / Jim Mone/Associated Press