Concern over reinjury clouds Cabrera return

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Houston — As good as it felt for manager Brad Ausmus to write Miguel Cabrera's name into the lineup Friday — the first time in 36 games — there was still a twinge of concern.

"I'm still cautiously optimistic he'll be OK," he said. "He still has to field ground balls and run to first base after he hits the ball. Hopefully he's fine. He said he felt good and there were no residual issues following his running.

"It's all systems go, but I will keep my fingers crossed that he's fine."

Cabrera missed 42 days, almost six weeks exactly, with a left calf strain. He and Ausmus talked about a possibility of doing a rehab stint, but Cabrera was adamant that it was unnecessary.

"If I am going to get hurt, if it's in Toledo or here, it doesn't matter," he said when the subject came up on Tuesday. "You know what I am saying?"

The Tigers can't force Cabrera to make a rehab assignment and Ausmus wasn't inclined to do so anyway.

"If anyone can come back after six weeks without a rehab stint, I imagine the best hitter on the planet could," Ausmus said.

Cabrera said he only went 10 days without swinging a bat during his convalescence, so he doesn't think his swing, other than getting his timing back, will be an issue.

"I worry about my calf more than my swing," he said, just hours before the game Friday.

The Tigers went 15-20 in Cabrera's absence.

"It's great to have Miggy back," said shortstop Jose Iglesias. "He is a big part of this team. Anytime you get a player like that back in your lineup, it's uplifting."

Ausmus put Cabrera back in the No. 3 spot, followed by Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez. Ian Kinsler, who had been hitting third since the trade deadline, will bat second against left-handed pitchers (like he did Friday) and he will lead-off against right-handers.

Iglesias, who batted eighth Friday against the lefty, will bat second against right-handers, Ausmus said.

"He's not just a great hitter," Ausmus said, "but he really extends our lineup. It's good to have him back."

Cabrera is hitting .350, which, if he had enough at-bats would easily lead the American League. Barring any other injury or setback, he should be able to get enough at-bats to qualify for his fourth batting title in five years.

He will need 169 at-bats over the last 48 games to qualify. That's 3.5 at-bats a game.

Twitter @cmccosky