Tigers’ manager Brad Ausmus announced that he has no intention of shutting down veteran infielder Miguel Cabrera for the remainder of the regular season, according to pregame comments made on Sunday. Cabrera was removed from Saturday’s 10-4 loss to the White Sox after experiencing a flare-up of lower back tightness. It’s the same injury that sidelined him during spring training in March, and then again in April, August and September. With the Tigers already eliminated from both the division and wild card races, it would make sense to rest Cabrera as the team starts looking toward 2018. So, what gives?
For starters, Ausmus says there’s little benefit to be derived from an extra two weeks on the disabled list. “He’s about to get four months off,” the skipper told reporters. “So four months and two weeks are going to help him?”
Even if an added rest period helped keep Cabrera healthy for the Tigers’ 2018 campaign, there’s no reason to believe that his chronic back problems would be gone for good. In fact, the Tigers appear to believe the opposite. Ausmus reiterated his belief that Cabrera will be dealing with back pain for the remainder of his major league career, and doesn’t think that the injury is severe enough to warrant surgery or other intensive treatment.
Whether or not Ausmus’ premonitions are correct remains to be seen. Cabrera sat against the White Sox on Sunday, stalling his offensive production at a .248/.329/.402 batting line, 16 home runs and a .731 OPS through 507 PA. The Tigers still have seven more years invested in their star slugger, back problems or not. He’ll ride out the tail end of an eight-year, $248-million contract extension in 2023 and will have $30 million vesting options in 2024 and 2025 for his age-41 and age-42 seasons.
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’ 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.