"I can't say for sure, but we probably could play him today, per se," team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said Saturday afternoon. "But it's just one of those things where you say it's better to give him a break, and go from there."
Utility infielder Ramon Santiago started at third for the Tigers, giving Detroit another at-bat from the right side against Indians left-hander Scott Kazmir. Manager Jim Leyland had been toying with a few different options at third base, including former Mariners infield-prospect-turned-slugging-outfielder Matt Tuiasosopo, but he opted for the lefty-righty matchups for a day.
Torii Hunter moved down from his usual second spot in the batting order to fill Cabrera's spot behind cleanup hitter Prince Fielder. Jose Iglesias, who has hit no higher than seventh in the Tigers' order since his trade from Boston at the end of July, filled in batting second.
Leyland gave every indication he'll use the daily matchups to determine how to fill in for Cabrera whenever he's out. How long that is remains a mystery.
"He's not playing today, but he's day to day," Dombrowski said Saturday.
The Tigers added some infield depth Saturday, recalling middle-infield prospect Hernan Perez from Triple-A Toledo for his third stint with the big club, but that move had been planned before Cabrera tweaked his abdominal trying to stretch a double Thursday against Oakland. Dombrowski said Cabrera's situation so far hasn't affected their plans for who they'll call up when rosters expand in September.
Still, Dombrowski made a point to emphasize that they're not going to jeopardize Cabrera's health by playing him if doctors tell them there's a risk of more serious injury. Though Cabrera is a near-lock for his third consecutive batting title, something no right-handed hitter has done since Rogers Hornsby, and has a chance at an unprecedented second straight Triple Crown, Dombrowski said the individual honors won't affect their decision on whether to play him.
"Our primary concern with Miguel Cabrera is making sure he's healthy -- if he gets to that point, healthy," Dombrowski said. "If the doctor tells us he's in a position where he's making it worse by playing, we will not play him. As much as anybody would like to see him win the home run title, the RBI title, the Triple Crown, he's is playing for the good of the team.
"I've had that question from a number of people. Our goal is to make sure he is fine. Nobody has ever said to us that shutting him down for an extended period will make him better. He's made progress. He at times has tweaked his situation, but he continues to be day to day at this point. He has some good days, some bad days. Unfortunately, he's just done something to hurt himself, tweak it at times."