TORONTO -- The Tigers will play just two series in the regular season on an artificial surface, but they're playing them back-to-back on this trip. With that in mind, they had to figure seven consecutive games on the turf in St. Petersburg and Toronto might produce some aches and pains.
Miguel Cabrera, however, is the last player they could afford to have them. When he left in the ninth inning of Tuesday's 7-6 win over the Blue Jays with back stiffness, it raised concerns.
Cabrera, however, said after the game that he expects to be fine for Wednesday.
"Hopefully it's not a big deal and I can come [Wednesday], get treatment and get ready to play," Cabrera said.
Cabrera said he felt some tightness in his back before the game, and his diving attempt on Emilio Bonifacio's first-inning double exacerbated it on the Rogers Centre turf.
"I dove on my side and felt a little something," he said. "I was tight, too, in batting practice. It was still sore in the game."
It wasn't a problem on his home run swing in the next inning off a Chien-Ming Wang sinker, but it became more of an issue later in the game. An inside pitch from Neil Wagner that forced him to get out of the way in the eighth inning made it worse.
"When he tried to get out of the way of that pitch, it kind of bothered him a little bit, got it out of line a little bit," manager Jim Leyland said.
That led to the rare move for Leyland: a defensive replacement for his everyday third baseman. He made a point when Cabrera moved to third to never replace him late in games, noting how much pride Cabrera takes in his position. In this case, though, it was a health issue. Thus, Ramon Santiago took the field at third for the ninth.
That pride from Cabrera might well have shown through when Leyland asked him after the game about his status.
"He said no rest [Wednesday], he'll be ready," Leyland said, "but I'm going to play that one by ear."
Cabrera had the same answer for reporters that he had for Leyland when asked if he expects to play Wednesday.
"Yeah," Cabrera said simply.
As much praise as Cabrera has drawn for his hitting, his durability has been an underrated quality since he arrived in Detroit in 2008. He has missed just two games over the last two-plus seasons, one for paternity leave two summers ago. His last injury that cost him multiple games was an ankle injury in the final week of the 2010 season.
Leyland said going into this trip that he planned to give several of his regulars at least one day off, while giving Prince Fielder a game or two as the designated hitter. It's a trickier issue to have Cabrera serve as DH, let alone sit him, because there's no natural replacement. With Matt Tuiasosopo on the disabled list, the only guys who could fill in are Santiago and Don Kelly.
Leyland said he did not know if Cabrera might need a day off, but he doesn't expect it to be a lingering issue.
"I think he'll be fine," Leyland said.