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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.

Maddon: Shohei Ohtani won’t pitch again for Angels this year

Shohei Ohtani
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Shohei Ohtani won’t pitch again this season for the Los Angeles Angels after straining his right forearm in his second start, manager Joe Maddon says.

Ohtani likely will return to the Angels’ lineup as their designated hitter this week, Maddon said Tuesday night before the club opened a road series against the Seattle Mariners.

The Angels’ stance on Ohtani is unsurprising after the club announced he had strained the flexor pronator mass near the elbow of his pitching arm. The two-way star’s recovery from the strain requires him to abstain from throwing for four to six weeks, which covers most of the shortened 2020 season.

“I’m not anticipating him pitching at all this year,” Maddon said. “Any kind of throwing program is going to be very conservative.”

Ohtani was injured Sunday in the second inning of his second start since returning to the mound following Tommy John surgery in late 2018. Ohtani issued five walks during the 42-pitch inning against the Houston Astros, with his velocity dropping later in the frame.

The arm injury is another obstacle in Ohtani’s path to becoming the majors’ first true two-way player in decades. He made 10 mound starts as a rookie in 2018 before injuring his elbow, but he served as the Angels’ regular designated hitter last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Ohtani has pitched in only three games since June 2018, but the Angels still believe in Ohtani’s ability to be a two-way player, Maddon said.

“I’m seeing that he can,” Maddon said. “We’ve just got to get past the arm maladies and figure that out. But I’ve seen it. He’s just such a high-end arm, and we’ve seen what he can do in the batter’s box. Now maybe it might get to the point where he may choose to do one thing over the other and express that to us. I know he likes to hit. In my mind’s eye, he’s still going to be able to do this.”

The veteran manager believes Ohtani will benefit from a full spring training and a normal season. Ohtani wasn’t throwing at full strength for a starter when the coronavirus pandemic shut down spring training in March because he wasn’t expected to pitch until May as he returned from surgery.

“Going into a regular season with a normal number of starts and all the things that permit guys to be ready for a year, that’s what we need to see is some normalcy before you make that kind of determination,” Maddon said.

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