"I made that decision," Leyland said Thursday. "I'll take the beating."
After watching Cabrera struggle through much of Wednesday's win over the Blue Jays, Leyland replaced him in the ninth inning, then made his intentions clear about Thursday's series finale.
"Cabrera should not play tonight," Leyland said. "I can honestly tell you that. He should not play, and that's a decision I made. He did not ask not to play. I'm sure he would play if I asked him. I made the decision, and I'll take the responsibility for it. He always wants to play.
"I made a managerial decision last night when I saw him, and the way he was hitting at home plate, and the way he was moving. I made a decision. It's our seventh straight game on turf. We're going to get into Cleveland real late at night."
Don Kelly started at third base in Cabrera's place.
Cabrera has missed one game in each of the last two seasons. He last sat out a game last Aug. 26 against the Angels, a game the Tigers won, 5-2, when Max Scherzer outpitched Ervin Santana. Jeff Baker started at third that day.
The Tigers won the one game Cabrera missed in 2011, too. That day, he was on paternity leave to be with his wife for the birth of their child, and the Tigers called up Omir Santos to give Alex Avila a much-needed day off. Doug Fister pitched well and the Tigers won a getaway game at Tampa Bay.
Cabrera was also out of the starting lineup in two other games in 2011, but ended up making a pinch-hit appearance in both.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.