DETROIT — Miguel Cabrera is dealing with some pain. Cabrera's numbers at the plate tell a clear enough story, and anyone watching him at the plate or making his way on or off the field can see Cabrera's ankle has impacted his ability to perform. It's also something that he can live with, even if it's not ideal.
Cabrera's ankle was a non-issue earlier in the season, but it's no longer one at the end of August. Not long ago the Tigers dismissed the notion their slugger was not well, that it was nothing more than Cabrera going through the motions of rebuilding his strength and making corrections at the plate.
All of this is true and Cabrera has acknowledged his issues at the plate, but the concern now extends beyond that. Cabrera doesn't discuss his health with the media, that hasn't changed. But Tigers manager Brad Ausmus has acknowledged that the sore ankle is affecting Cabrera, particularly when he runs and also when he puts weight on it to drive the ball.
"When Miggy's able to keep the weight back and drive into the ball, that's what you see," Ausmus said. "You see a ball that is hit a lot harder than other players hitting."
The problem is Cabrera isn't able to do that right now. Lately, when Cabrera takes a solid swing, it's often hard to watch because along with a good, hard swing and the contact that follows, a grimace accompanies.
Because of that, Cabrera's contact, the kind that fans have gotten used to seeing tattoo home runs all over the ballpark, has been largely missing. So have the home runs.
The power is there to use, but to actually use it is painful, and running on a bad ankle doesn't lighten the burden any. Tuesday night Cabrera smoked a double to left in the third inning, but he barely beat the throw to the bag. This, all after coming off of two days rest.
Defensively the ankle is a non-issue for Cabrera, and that much is clear. Tuesday night he started a 3-6-3 double play in the eighth inning and made some diving catches and snags in the game that saved Rick Porcello from extended innings and additional hits. Actually playing first base isn't a problem, but even on the first diving stop he made, Cabrera was slow to recover and toss the ball to Porcello, who was covering at first base.
"You could tell the way he's moving that the ankle bothers him but it certainly didn't stop him on defense," Ausmus said. "He had a couple nice picks as well as the double play. He's kind of a warrior. You saw it last year in September when he was hurt and he wanted to play. He likes being a part of the team, that's kind of his make up."
Ausmus has considered giving Cabrera designated hitter responsibilities with more regularity, but he can only place Victor Martinez at first base so often. So while it's an option to relegate Cabrera to those duties on occasion — or at least more often — it would be a day-to-day situation and not one that Ausmus is even sure Cabrera would welcome on a consistent basis.
Cabrera doesn't like coming out of the lineup. Seeing him wince in pain is just another part of the game for him to deal with and push past, just as he did last season. However, that also means Ausmus has to keep an eye on Cabrera, because if Cabrera had his way, he would never come out of the lineup or off the field, that's just who he is.
"I would certainly consider it and if he needs a day we'll give him a day," Ausmus said. "I'm not a doctor but medically, giving him a day might help it a little bit but I don't know if it's going to help it long-term. Anytime he comes in and I think he needs a day or he thinks he needs a day then we'll give him a day."
Given the circumstances, Cabrera may need a day off more often than normal because of how the ankle is affecting him. Giving Cabrera a day off here or there isn't going to fix the issue, right now, it's merely a reprieve.