Miguel Cabrera might have back problems ‘rest of his career’

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News
Miguel Cabrera

Denver, Colo. – Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said Tuesday that Miguel Cabrera’s chronic back problems could be an issue during his remaining years in Detroit.

“Quite frankly, I think he’s going to have to deal with it the rest of his career,” Ausmus said Tuesday after holding out Cabrera for an evening game against the Rockies.

Cabrera, 34, and regarded as one of the most complete hitters in baseball history, has had a sobering year, with a .253 batting average, 14 home runs, and a low-key OPS of .745.

He left Monday’s game against the Rockies, a 4-3 Tigers victory, in the fifth inning when his lower back tightened.

Ausmus was forced to sit him Tuesday and said Cabrera “probably” would miss Wednesday’s series finale at Coors Field.

Cabrera strained his back during the World Baseball Classic in March and has not, for any extended period in 2017, looked like the Hall of Fame-bound superstar who until this year regularly destroyed pitchers.

Cabrera was asked about his back ills after Tuesday night’s game.

“You guys know I’ve been dealing with this all year,” he said.

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The Tigers medical team has not found any significant injury to Cabrera’s back. Cabrera, likewise, has not described any specific ill, much less one that he or the Tigers believe is treatable or that would benefit from extended rest, therapy, or, perhaps, surgery.

Ausmus said his thoughts on Cabrera were based, in part, on his own big-league experience.

“I had some issues the last 10 years,” said Ausmus, who in 2010, when he was catching for the Dodgers, had surgery for a herniated disc.

Ausmus said his problems were tied to a disc compressing a nerve that in turned produced tightened muscles – a situation he had learned to live with even ahead of surgery.

The Tigers have neither accepted, nor ruled out, notions that Cabrera could be looking at more advanced treatment of his condition, including surgery, at the end of the 2017 season.

Doctors, though, have not suggested that Cabrera should sit. Nor have they implied that rest during the season’s waning weeks would necessarily be productive for either party.

“It crossed my mind when he had to come out of the game tonight,” Ausmus said, when asked Monday if shutting down Cabrera might be the prudent move.

But the Tigers, counseled by their medical team, have made no such move.

“It’s something he may have to deal with the remainder of his career,” Ausmus repeated. “Probably, it’ll come and go. What you don’t want to do is make yourself worse, or create a bad habit that impacts performance or creates another problem.”

Ironically, Cabrera has said that swinging a bat is manageable and that he believes his back isn’t influencing his swing or his 2017 numbers.

Rather, he has said, standing idly at first base for extended periods is the greater problem.

Cabrera is under contract with the Tigers through at least 2023. The Tigers after this season will owe him, minimally, $184 million.