Joy turns to pain for Tigers’ Cabrera as back seizes up

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Cleveland — Miguel Cabrera singled and scored Nick Castellanos from second base in the eighth inning, a huge insurance run in the Tigers’ 4-1 win over the Indians Sunday.

Then he merrily scampered to second base on a single by Victor Martinez, playfully rounding the base and pantomiming like he was going to catch the throw back into the infield from right fielder Brandon Guyer.

But his body language changed quickly. He grabbed at his back and trainer Kevin Rand and manager Brad Ausmus were quickly out of the dugout to check on him.

“His back tightened up,” said Ausmus, who immediately sent in JaCoby Jones to run for him.

Cabrera has been getting treatment on his back since it flared up on him on the artificial turf in Mexico City early in the World Baseball Classic. Cabrera seemed to wince a bit in his third at-bat Sunday, as well.

“It was tight last night,” Cabrera said. “And it felt the same today. I am trying to be careful. We will get treatment tomorrow and hope it will be OK.”

The Tigers traveled to Tampa Sunday night and are off on Monday.

“They realigned him (chiropractic massage) after he came off the field,” Ausmus said. “The day off tomorrow should really help.”

Ausmus was already considering giving Cabrera a day off, or at least DH-ing him a game in Tampa. There is a turf field at Tropicana Field, though the infield is dirt.

“I wouldn’t blame it on the WBC,” Ausmus said. “He’s had back issues flare up as long as I’ve been here. It’s just part of getting older.”

Tough Texan

The toughness of Alex Wilson has never been questioned, but in case anybody forgot, witness the play he made in the seventh inning Sunday.

With the Tigers clinging to a 2-1 lead, Indians’ Yandy Diaz hit a hard one-hopper back through the box. The ball caromed off Wilson’s wrist and then off his left eye.

“I’ve been hit harder,” Wilson said.

Although the left eye was watering immediately, Wilson found the ball, bobbled it a bit and managed to throw Diaz out before falling to the ground.

“Honestly, it wasn’t so much the pain,” he said. “I couldn’t see out of it. It caught me in the eye lid, eyebrow area. I couldn’t see. I was actually quite proud of myself for getting the ball to first base.”

He said once he got the ball, all he could see was Cabrera, “in general,” and flipped it in that direction.

“After that, I needed to take a minute to see if it would clear up,” he said. “It got as good as it could get, but I still couldn’t see great out of it the rest of the inning. I kept wiping it and trying to get the water out, but it kept watering.

“And I wasn’t going to waste an hour standing there.”

So he squinted in with one eye to get the sign from catcher Alex Avila and promptly struck out Austin Jackson and Yan Gomes to end the inning.

“Yeah, I never doubted his toughness,” Ausmus said. “He’s a good, old Texas boy.”

Around the horn

J.D. Martinez is expected to rejoin the team in Tampa — at least temporarily. He is still on the disabled list (sprained right foot), but he is expected to take batting practice with the team and be in the dugout for the games. Martinez still isn’t cleared to run or take outfield drills.

… Justin Wilson owns April. He didn’t give up a run in his first 10 outings last season. After pitching a clean eighth inning Sunday, striking out Francisco Lindor and Michael Brantley, he has pitched 61/3 scoreless and hitless innings.

… Avila’s two-run home run Sunday extended the Tigers home run streak to 12 games to start the season. They are two shy the major league record set by Cleveland in 2002 (14).

… Avila reached base all four at-bats — home run, single and two walks. He has reached base in eight of his last nine plate appearances, and he is hitting .700 on the season — 7-for-10.

… Tyler Collins extended his hitting streak to nine games.