Miguel Cabrera He doesn’t like to talk about his right knee.
But on Thursday, the 39-year-old did not hesitate to discuss the topic. A few reporters approached Cabrera’s locker at the club after Detroit Tigers DH sat at the conclusion of the final episode on Wednesday in Minneapolis. To understand what was going on, the 20-year MLB veteran – a lock for the Baseball Hall of Fame – met them in the middle to talk about his health.
There is a chance Cabrera will play his last season.
He’s hesitant about his 2023 status.
“I’ve spoken with my agent, I’ve spoken with the general manager (general manager Al Avila), and I’ve spoken with everyone to see what the plan will be for next year,” Cabrera said. “Right now, we’re focused on today. We’ll go day in and day out and see what happens. I’m not thinking about next year right now. I’m thinking about trying to end the health situation this year, and we’ll see.”
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Cabrera owes $32 million from Tigers for next season. He has spoken several times over the past two seasons about his goal of winning the world championship with the Tigers and his plan to retire after his contract expires, but this time, he will not commit to 2023.
“I don’t feel good right now,” Cabrera said. “I’m trying to do everything I can to go out there and play, but I’m not feeling well at the moment.”
It was always a question of ‘when’, not ‘if’, for the two-times top player and his ailing right knee. He was diagnosed with a chronic injury to his right knee in 2019, but on the recommendation of four specialists, including sports physician Dr. James Andrews, he did not opt for surgery.
Cabrera knee pain will get worse over time.
Everyone knew that.
“It’s a chronic thing that he’s going to have to live with, and with treatment, you’ll have to put him on the field,” Avila said in June 2019. It gets worse as you progress. It is his duty to remain in good shape, and we must make sure that we give him proper treatment and rest. It’s a mix. If you continue that, we should be able to keep him productive on the field for the remainder of his contract, so that is our expectation and our hope.”
Now, it’s time to catch up with Cabrera, the third player in MLB history to reach 3,000 scores, 500 home points and 600 doubles, along with Albert Pujols (who played his last season in 2022) and the late Hank Aaron.
The tread is running out of tires.
“In the past three weeks, I’ve been in more pain,” Cabrera said. “I’ve had this problem for the past three or four years. Right now, I’m trying to get more training. I have to deal with it.”
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The All-Star scored 12 times, including the “All-Star Legends Selection” for the 2022 edition of the Midsummer Classic, hitting an average of 308 across 70 games through July 6, before being named to the team despite only seven doubles and three runs over his land.
Since then, Cabrera has hit 0.132 with two doubles and another at home in over 20 games. In total, he has an average of 271 with nine pairs, four players, 36 RBIs, 23 walks and 82 strikes in 90 games.
Often times, Cabrera takes unconventional swings and can’t rotate his right knee while trying to attack pitches in the batter box. Performance without a healthy back knee means Cabrera, who averaged 33 Homers in the 2004-16 season, is unable to generate power.
“I feel it when I swing,” Cabrera said. “When you see me hitting a lot of balls on my right side, it’s because of the pain. … I will try to do more exercises to strengthen my quad or (hamstring) or anything around my knee. We will see what happens.”
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The Tigers are taking a proactive approach to the situation, with Cabrera and manager AJ Hinch working together to determine his playing time for the remainder of the season.
Cabrera and Hinch haven’t talked about 2023, but they have located the current home in Comerica Park, which runs August 4-11 with a Monday holiday. The Tigers play the Tampa Bay Rays through Sunday, then the Cleveland Guardians play Tuesday through Thursday. The Tigers will reassess Cabrera’s health before preparing their schedule for the second half of August.
“It hurts,” Hinch said. “He doesn’t move great. He plays through the pain.”
Until further notice, the Cabrera is set to be the designated hitter for the Tigers every day, and when he’s not in the starting lineup, he’ll be available to discus. Tigers, as they have done for several years, will monitor its activity on the tracks of the base.
For now, the Tigers are hoping Cabrera can sidestep the infected list.
He has been on the injured list once – for 10 days in April 2021 due to a strain in his left biceps – since his left biceps tendon rupture in June 2018 sent him to the injured list for 60 days and his season ended.
“I don’t necessarily think that’s the solution,” Hinch said. “If this continues later in the month, I think we’ll have to look into it. But he can give us what he got.”
Cabrera loves to play in games, and exemplified by his playful personality on the field, he spent the 2020 campaign begging the organization to let him return to first base, which, unlike former manager Ron Gardenhire, allowed Hinch to make 44 of his 130 games last season. .
But Cabrera didn’t work at first base in 2022. He gladly gave up his career for 22-year-old rookie Spencer Torkelson, who proudly took the field as the first policeman on the Tigers’ opening day. The Tigers downgraded Torkelson to Triple-A Toledo in mid-July, but when that happened, Cabrera didn’t ask to return to first base.
Nor did he fight a loss of playing time in the last two months of this season due to a knee injury. He said he was willing to give away some of his rackets to young players so the Tigers could “see what we got for next year”.
“I don’t want to hurt the team,” Cabrera said. “I don’t want to put myself in a bad situation. I don’t perform, so I’m OK with that. I understand that. This is always a problem I have with my knee, so it’s okay. I love this team and I don’t want to hurt this team.”
“You have to understand your body. I understand my body and my position in this team. I’m still working, and every time they give me a chance to play, I’ll go out there and do my job. That’s the bottom line, that’s what matters.”
All signs point to the fact that the end is near for Cabrera, one of the best players to have ever worn the old English “D” on his chest. When baseball’s newest Triple Crown winner decides to hang up his cleats, it remains a mystery.
But Cabrera will eventually play his last game.
Maybe faster than expected.
“I think this is a huge step for him and also a huge step for any athlete who starts talking about not being able to physically do some things,” Hinch said. “I wouldn’t say it sounded the alarm, but it certainly made it a more open topic that we’ve been talking about behind closed doors a little bit.
“I hate that he doesn’t feel good. He’s played so much pain in his career that we probably can’t even fathom him, but this time, I think he’s convinced him to talk openly about it and make sure we’re doing the right thing.”