CLEVELAND -- Any chances at a comeback this season for Carlos Guillen appear to be done. The key for the Tigers now is to make sure their All-Star third baseman comes back for next season at full speed. A second opinion from a renowned back specialist eased some minds in that regard.
With Guillen left struggling to come back from an inflamed lower back, the Tigers' medical staff sent him from Texas to Los Angeles for a Wednesday examination by Dr. Robert Watkins to make sure the injury wasn't worse than originally believed. His evaluation backed up what team doctors had diagnosed last month, that Guillen's inflammation was coming from a nerve root in his lower back.
"I don't know about the rest of the season," manager Jim Leyland said Friday, "but Carlos will be fine [long term]. There are no serious issues or no major problems, so we're thrilled to death to find that out."
Guillen did not require surgery, only a second epidural shot to ease the back stiffness enough for him to pick up his rehab process. He received that shot Thursday in Detroit and will remain at home for the weekend before rejoining the club next week at Comerica Park, when it'll be back to the workout program he has had for the last few weeks.
Guillen has progressed to a certain point in the rehab, head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said, but has had a tougher time getting past that point. He'll take a program into the offseason to get his back stabilized and get him to full strength in time for Spring Training.
"It's just more a matter of time than anything," Rand said. "He's getting better. He's not quite there yet."
With just over a week left in the regular season, Guillen most likely won't be there in time to play again this year, either. Even if he felt fine early this week, the infielder would need time to get back into game shape. Guillen hasn't played at all since Aug. 25, missing Detroit's last 21 games in the process.
At this point, Rand said, he would rather be safe than sorry if there's any risk of reinjuring his back and putting next spring at risk.
"I would find it hard to believe that I could expect him to get back into playing shape by the time the season's over," Leyland said. "If by chance he feels like he'd like to pinch-hit, see what it feels like, or feels like he could play a game, certainly I would honor that. But I think for effectiveness, from that standpoint, I think you'd be probably hoping."
The Tigers have settled into a pattern without Guillen down the stretch. Brandon Inge, normally the starting catcher, played at third base for the third consecutive game, while Dusty Ryan started behind the plate. Rookie Jeff Larish also has seen some starts at third, as has fellow September callup Mike Hessman.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.