CLEVELAND -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland's lineup card was missing his everyday shortstop, the just-suspended Jhonny Peralta, just as it will for at least another 49 games. For the first time in nearly a week, however, it had Miguel Cabrera.
If Leyland can keep him in it for another 49 games, they'll take their chances in the American League Central race.
Cabrera took a full hitting and running session Monday afternoon before batting practice, and he said later in the day that he felt good. The abdominal strain that limited him to a lone pinch-hit appearance over the previous four games, and just three starts in the seven games before that, had relented a bit.
Barely 24 hours earlier, after Cabrera had pinch-hit and limped to first base in the 12th inning to put the eventual winning run on base against the White Sox, Cabrera's return to the lineup Monday seemed doubtful. He avoided a question about his health after Sunday's game, and barely talked much at all.
On Monday, talking about his health beat talking about the Jhonny Peralta suspension. When asked how he felt, Cabrera smiled.
"Much better," Cabrera said.
It's not lateral movement at third base or swinging the bat that bothers him, he said. It's running, and it was apparent on his first-inning hit Monday night. He slowed up at first base on his liner into the corner, then finally trotted to second when it became apparent right fielder Drew Stubbs' error had left him with no chance at a throw.
Cabrera's return to third coincided with Jose Iglesias' first game at shortstop. The left-side infield combination could ease some of the demands on Cabrera to range to his left, allowing him to focus more down the line.
Cabrera went 1-for-4 at the plate on the night, grounding out three times. Don Kelly pinch-ran for him following a ninth-inning walk and replaced him at third base for the bottom half of the inning.
"The trainer says that he can play the way he's playing and it'll still get better," manager Jim Leyland said after the game. "The only question I had for him is if I'm taking a chance to injure him by playing him, or will it get better as long as nothing freaky happens. And he said it still will. We'll see how it is tomorrow."