"I'm concerned about that one," manager Jim Leyland said. "I'm not concerned that it's anything serious, but I'm concerned."
Cabrera left last Thursday's game at Minnesota with the same issue. He missed the series opener at Kansas City the next day before returning to action, but he admitted before the game that the shoulder has been bothering him. It had been a little better, but not really healed.
It was bad again on Tuesday.
"It absolutely felt a lot better the last three games," Cabrera said. "It kind of was bothering me in Minnesota, and today I feel the same."
Cabrera went 0-for-2 on Tuesday. He hit the first pitch he saw for a fly ball to left in the opening inning, took an intentional walk in the third and grounded out to lead off the fifth. That last at-bat was the particular concern, because he swung at a 2-1 fastball, fouled it off, and then swung at the next pitch.
When he has to come back and swing again, he said, it's a problem.
"I swing at one ball, and if I miss it, the next pitch that I swing at is not a consistent swing," Cabrera said. "It's like I don't feel right, you know?"
Cabrera said he first injured the shoulder diving for a ball in the Tigers' last homestand against Kansas City. He said he had the same problem a few years ago with Florida, but at a short time off cleared it up. That created some hope that a game off last week would do the trick, but clearly that hasn't worked.
He's likely to miss at least a game this time, which would be Wednesday's game against White Sox lefty John Danks. He's 4-for-16 with four walks lifetime off Danks.
"I'm not sure about his status for tomorrow. I would say it's doubtful," Leyland said. 'If you come out of the game one night, very rarely do you play the next night. I'm not saying he won't, but right now ... I doubt that's going to happen. Thursday's a day game, so it's going to be one of those where you might have to be satisfied with getting him ready for the weekend."
The Tigers welcome the Orioles for three games starting Friday. That would leave Detroit having to fill its cleanup spot with somebody else for the next two games, somebody who clearly would not have the same danger for pitchers as Cabrera.
Though the Tigers are fading from the postseason picture, Cabrera remains in the conversation for American League MVP honors. His 110 RBIs still lead the Majors, while his .333 average and 33 home runs rank second among AL hitters. The Tigers managed to put up a rally to beat the Royals on Friday night with Cabrera out, but they can't count on doing that consistently.
At the same time, they can't count on Cabrera doing a whole lot if his shoulder prevents him from swinging the way he wants, not to mention the potential they raise for making his shoulder worse.
"He's our best player, might be the best player in the league," Leyland said. "I sure don't want to lose him for the last stretch, but I'm not going to play somebody that hurts. Miguel, he's as tough as they come. He plays every day. He's a real tough kid. He wants to be out there. He loves to play. But I'm not going to do something stupid with him or anybody else. I'll just have to wait and see."