DETROIT — The 2014 season was rough for Miguel Cabrera, but the end of the previous season was worse. It was clear for the majority of this season that Cabrera — both regaining strength from core muscle surgery and dealing with a right ankle issue — was not himself, but he battled through it.
Now that the Tigers' offseason is underway, president and GM Dave Dombrowski said Tuesday that the team has not yet reached a decision on treatment for Cabrera's ankle.
While Cabrera was busy driving in runs and smoking home runs in the final month of the regular season, it was easy to see that Cabrera's health concerns weren't going to magically go away on their own.
As difficult as it was to see the reigning two-time AL MVP slugger play in pain, it paled in comparison with what Cabrera went through in 2013. During the 2014 season Cabrera at least had some ability to use his lower half, whereas in 2013 that wasn't an option. Still, Cabrera played, and good luck talking him out of a decision when he'd made it.
"I mean, last winter, there's no question that he was significantly effected," Dombrowski said. "I've said this before: I'm amazed he could play, going into the postseason of 2013. When you looked at his leg, and the purple, and the blood that had drained into there. And when watched him, you knew he was in extreme pain, and it was all the time. But you knew he was going to play no matter what. But the power wasn't there, per se, because he didn't have the ability to exert the power, or use the lower legs."
As 2014 came to a close, Cabrera's power returned while he continued to cope with the limitations of an ongoing bone spur issue. Cabrera refused to come out of a game until manager Brad Ausmus gave him no choice and limited Cabrera's playing for a time. With rest, Cabrera began mashing baseballs when the calender flipped to September.
Even with his injuries, Cabrera missed just three complete games in 2014. In September, Cabrera drove in eight home runs, 10 doubles, 18 RBI, and scored 19 runs, batting .379/.409/.709 in 26 games. Cabrera had recorded just seven home runs and 24 doubles in the three previous months combined.
Dombrowski acknowledged Cabrera was continually bothered by the injury throughout the final month and into the postseason, but nowhere near the level that Cabrera had experienced the year before.
Because of that, fans saw the player who was able to perform and put up final season numbers any other baseball player would normally call career, or at least gaudy numbers. For Cabrera, they were a career-low dating back to 2008 and now the Tigers have a decision to make.
"He's in a process where he's being (evaluated) — we're checking him out, from a physical perspective," Dombrowski said. "We've already done some of the work on that, and we'll do some more this week, and then we'll determine what we're going to do beyond that. That'll be more of a doctor's decision."
But is surgery at least a possibility?
"Is it a possibility? I'd say it is a possibility," Dombrowski said. "I don't know if it's going to happen or not. But is it a possibility? Sure. There's a spur in there, and people that have looked at him so far tell me that if it has to be removed, it's a relatively easy — for them — procedure. But I don't want to draw any conclusions yet, because he's not done with that whole process."
Unlike 2013, Cabrera's pain was an off-and-on issue this season. Most often the ankle flared up when sliding or he did something to "jar" the spur. An injury, particularly a bone spur, doesn't mean surgery. There are other options, and the Tigers and Cabrera haven't reached a decision on the best course of treatment. That decision may not come anytime soon.