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Miguel Cabrera exits game with lower back tightness

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Tigers’ first baseman Miguel Cabrera left Saturday’s game with another case of lower back tightness, the team announced. It’s the fifth time the veteran slugger has been sidelined with back pain this season and very well could be the last, though he’s expected to be day-to-day for the time being.

Cabrera lasted just four innings against the White Sox, going 0-for-2 before he was pulled prior to the start of the fifth inning. No specific event appeared to trigger the injury, but he was left flailing at the plate against right-hander Reynaldo Lopez and went 0-for-2 before John Hicks relieved him in the top of the fifth inning. Hicks, meanwhile, collected a single in his first at-bat of the night and was left stranded after Lopez induced back-to-back outs from Nicholas Castellanos and Jeimer Candelario.

It’s been a rough season for Cabrera and doesn’t figure to get any easier as the regular season winds down. He’s batting .249/.331/.404 with 16 home runs and a .734 OPS after missing 44 days to various injuries and another six days to a lengthy suspension for participating in the Yankees-Tigers brawl last month. While the severity of his most recent injury remains to be determined, it’s not preposterous to suggest that he might not return to the field in 2017. The last time he was derailed with a back injury, he missed a full 18 days without landing on the DL. The Tigers don’t have that kind of time at this point in the year, and a playoff run is well out of reach thanks to the Indians’ 22-game surge.

Back in August, club manager Brad Ausmus pointed out that Cabrera’s lingering health issues would likely be an ongoing problem, especially with no clear root cause and no clear path to an effective treatment. “Quite frankly, I think he’s going to have to deal with it the rest of his career,” he told reporters. So far, that prediction doesn’t seem to be off the mark.

Blue Jays shut down Steve Pearce for the rest of 2017

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The Blue Jays have shut down left fielder Steve Pearce for the remainder of the season following a lingering case of lower back stiffness. Pearce has not appeared in a game since September 8, when he was forced to exit in the first inning after experiencing back pain during his at-bat. Per Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca, he’s scheduled to return to Florida next week, where he’ll receive epidural injections to address the pain.

Pearce, 34, impressed in his first season with Toronto. He battled through a calf injury during the first half of the season and finished the year with a modest .252/.319/.438 batting line, 13 home runs and a .757 OPS through 348 PA. By September, the Blue Jays started testing the waters with outfield prospect Teoscar Hernandez, who shouldered the bulk of the starts in left field after Pearce was sidelined with back issues.

With the Blue Jays all but eliminated from playoff contention, however, there’s no rush to get Pearce back to the outfield. He should be in fine shape to compete for another starting role in spring, and could face stiff competition from Hernandez if the rookie continues building on his .278 average and three home runs this month. The veteran outfielder is slated to receive the remaining $6.25 million on his contract in 2018 and will be eligible for free agency in 2019.

Brewers’ Julio Mendez remains hospitalized after hit by pitch

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Brewers’ minor league infielder Julio Mendez remains in “critical but stable condition,” club GM David Stearns announced Friday. Back in August, Mendez suffered a cardiac event after he was inadvertently struck by a ball from the Angels’ Austin Krzeminksi during a game between the rookie-level affiliates. The 20-year-old was removed to a Phoenix-area hospital for treatment following the incident and has recently been transferred to a hospital in his native Venezuela.

Mendez was in his fourth season with the Brewers’ organization. He spent the majority of his 2017 run with the rookie-level AZL Brewers, slashing .255/.294/.355 with 10 extra-base hits, 16 RBI and four stolen bases over 119 plate appearances. He currently holds a career .241/.324/.309 batting line, 33 extra bases and a .633 OPS through 668 PA.

Baseball is still on the back burner, however, as Mendez appears to have made little progress nearly a month following the hit by pitch. Thoughts go out to his family during this difficult time.