Manager Brad Ausmus has talked about sitting Cabrera for a stretch if it would help. At the same time, he said Cabrera wasn't ready to rule himself out for Sunday.
"The last couple days, he said it felt really good, and then today it flared up again," Ausmus said. "Although we discussed [sitting], I don't know if four or five days would do anything, because sometimes he comes in from sleeping overnight and feels good.
"We really want Miggy in the lineup because he's such a valuable part of the team, such a good player, and he's just a presence being in the lineup. We obviously need him to be healthy, too, so it's such a delicate balance."
Cabrera started at first base for both games of Saturday's doubleheader, but looked limited. He struck out three times in the afternoon game, extending an 0-for-15 slump, before hitting a single in his final at-bat, and looked to be struggling to range toward ground balls down the first-base line.
After striking out with a runner on in the third inning, Cabrera smelled a chance at a hit when his fourth-inning comebacker bounced away from White Sox rookie pitcher Chris Bassitt. When Cabrera tried to accelerate, however, he slowed down, hobbling his way to first base as Bassitt collected the ball and threw to Paul Konerko for the out, while Rajai Davis scored from third to give the Tigers a 5-0 lead.
Cabrera had a pained look on his face on his way back to the dugout. Ausmus, who waited until less than an hour before game time before writing Cabrera into the lineup for the nightcap, made a quick decision from there.
"That didn't help, going down the line. It's probably the combination of a long day and that," Ausmus said. "We weren't sure who was going to DH and who was going to play first. We were hoping Miggy's ankle would calm down and it did and he felt good when he took batting practice. But in the end, it was bothering him too much."
Don Kelly, who started the game at third base, went to first when the Tigers came out for the bottom of the fourth. Nick Castellanos entered the game at third.
The decision to start Cabrera at first Saturday night, Ausmus said, came down to his defense with a young contact pitcher on the mound. Kyle Ryan started the game, making his Major League debut. Victor Martinez could have started at first base, but is normally a DH.
Cabrera's injuries and struggles have impacted him at the plate, where his .299 average have him at risk of his first sub-.300 season since 2008, his first season as a Tiger. His run of three consecutive American League batting titles is likely near its end, while his 17 home runs have him on pace for his first season with fewer than 30 homers since 2006, his next-to-last season with the Marlins.
Even so, Ausmus said, "He wants to play. Even tonight after the game, I said, 'Why don't we give you a day tomorrow?' And he said, 'No, no, no, I might be good in the morning.' This is the mentality that he has. He wants to be out there.
"I said to him, 'If we think it's necessary, we can do this.' But he kind of balked at that. Miggy wants to play. He's kind of old-school in that sense. A lot of people would not play with the type of injuries that Miggy's had over the past two seasons, so I give the guy a lot of credit. A lot of times, you don't see it in modern baseball because of the dollars attached to it."