The Detroit Tigers placed Miguel Cabrera on the 15-day disabled list with a left calf strain Saturday morning, just hours after Cabrera left Friday night's game against the Toronto Blue Jays in significant pain. Cabrera was running from first base to second when he pulled up suddenly. Limping visibly as he walked off the field, Cabrera underwent an MRI on his calf.
This is a career-first DL stint for Cabrera. Saturday morning the Tigers received a diagnosis that Cabrera has a Grade 3 calf strain and will likely miss six weeks. That puts his earliest timetable for return at August 15, with the DL date to possibly return being July 19. If that six week diagnosis holds, the Tigers will miss Cabrera's bat for 37 games.
"There's some fibers tearing, but not to the point where he'll need surgery or anything like that," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said prior to Saturday's game. "
The Tigers are still trying to get the initial diagnosis results to Dr. Robert Anderson in Charlotte, N.C. after experiencing "technical difficulties" getting the MRI images to him. For now, the Tigers are going with the first opinion until they hear something else.
Losing Cabrera is a serious blow to the Tigers, as he has put up MVP-caliber numbers this year. Cabrera is batting .350/.456/.578 with 15 home runs and 54 RBI. His batting average, on-base percentage, and 1.034 OPS all lead the American League, as do his 13 intentional walks.
Without Cabrera, the Tigers will need even more production out of Victor Martinez, Yoenis Cespedes, and J.D. Martinez in the middle of their lineup. After coming off the disabled list two weeks ago, Victor is batting .321/.367/.482 with seven extra-base hits and 10 home runs. Cespedes has been hitting well all season long, batting .289/.318/.475 with 23 doubles and 10 RBI. J.D. Martinez has carried the load offensively for the Tigers recently, with 12 home runs and 30 RBI since June 7.
The Tigers don't have another natural first baseman on their roster, and will appear to fill the void with a mish-mash of other players. Andrew Romine finished Friday's game at first base, while Alex Avila is penciled into Saturday's lineup as the team's first baseman.
As of now, the Tigers' options at first are: Josh Wilson, Avila, Romine, Jordan Lennerton, and newly called up infielder, Jefry Marte.
Marte was called up from Triple-A Toledo to help fill the void left by Cabrera. Marte, a third baseman by trade, is batting .271/.337/.497 with 13 home runs and 55 RBI for the Mud Hens this season. He has previously spent time with the New York Mets and Oakland Athletics organizations, but has never played in a major league game. This is his first season with the Tigers after coming to spring training as a non-roster invitee.
Victor Martinez has played first base in Cabrera's stead in seasons past, but the Tigers appear to be reluctant to hand him a glove after his second major knee injury in the past three years. In fact, Ausmus said he would not be considering Martinez as an option at first at all right now.
At last tally, Cabrera was leading the votes for the MLB All-Star Game at first base for the AL team. If that holds, Cabrera will not be able to play in the game. He would still be considered an All-Star, though, and be able to attend the events. The results for ASG starters will be announced on Sunday.
The Tigers are going to need to be cautious with Avila for now as he's freshly off the DL himself, having just recovered from a left knee injury. The Tigers have not had a single day this season where Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and Avila have all been healthy at the same time.
"Sometimes you find out more about a team when a player like Miggy goes down," Ausmus said. "We'll see what type of fight we have."