Miguel Cabrera: I'm Done Playing Through Injuries

"I played a lot of years hurt here in Detroit, nobody appreciates that."

Will Burchfield
May 15, 2018 - 6:38 pm

© Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports


In past years, Miguel Cabrera might have clenched his teeth and decided mind over matter. He might have dismissed the hamstring, hip and back issues that have sidelined him since May 4. The future Hall-of-Famer is a well-known warrior when it comes to playing through pain. 

Just last year, Cabrera appeared in 130 games for the Tigers despite being hampered throughout the season by two herniated discs in his back, not to mention injuries to his groin, hamstring and hip flexor. His numbers cratered as a result, and Cabrera has since decided he's done taking the field in compromised condition. 

It's unclear at this point when he'll return. 

"I (went) through a lot last year. I'm not doing the same thing this year because nobody appreciates when you play hurt, so I'm going to take my time and play when I'm good. I played a lot of years hurt here in Detroit, nobody appreciates that. But when you're doing bad, they crush you. They crush you," Cabrera said with a laugh. "They say you're bad, go home, you don't deserve anything...you're past your time, you're old, so I say, okay, I'm done.

"But when I play hurt and we're doing good, 'Oh, you're good, ohh, ohh.' So now I'm going to take my time." 

These were light-hearted remarks from Cabrera, not shots aimed at the fans. He smiled as he rattled off the various criticisms thrown his way, well aware it's the nature of the beast. Cabrera is owed $31 million per year through 2023. That's a whole lot of money to be stuck on the bench. 

They were honest remarks, too. Now 35, Cabrera learned last season he no longer stands to benefit from playing through injuries. His body doesn't hold up to stress the way it used to, and rushing back from one health issue only creates others. Then the production suffers. 

When last year's injury-riddled season came to a merciful end, Cabrera had posted career lows in average (.249), OPS (.728), home runs (16) and RBI (62). 

He worked hard to get himself healthy in the offseason, and it showed to start the year. He was hitting .323 with a .924 OPS before straining his hamstring May 3 at Kansas City. The Tigers placed him on the 10-day DL the next day, and he hasn't played since. He was eligible to be activated Monday. He likely won't return for at least another week. 

It's not so much the hamstring that's ailing him at this point, but recurring stiffness in his back and his hip. Cabrera has yet to do any baseball activity since landing on the DL, limited mostly to running on the treadmill. 

"He's not ready to be activated right now," Ron Gardenhire said on Tuesday afternoon. "He still has to go through some things and he needs to get on the field and be able to run. They're getting him on the treadmill, he's running there, but we have to be very careful and make sure that we get it right, so that when he comes back we're not dealing with anything."

Let this be clear, Cabrera is desperate to return. Few players, if any, hate sitting out as much as he does. What's more, the Tigers have been surprisingly competitive through 40 games and could use their best hitter to help them stay in the hunt. Detroit entered Tuesday night's game versus Cleveland having won three of four and sitting two games out of first place in the AL Central. 

At the end of his interview, Cabrera, having worked himself into a bit of a lather, acknowledged, "I'm mad right now." Then he shouted in frustration as he walked away from his locker. He was off to do more rehab. 

“He’s doing everything they’re asking," Gardenhire said on Monday night. 

In his younger years, he'd probably already be back on the field. But this is Cabrera's new reality, one he doesn't enjoy but has come to accept. To get back on the field and stay on the field, to produce up to his standards now and fulfill his contract in the future, playing hurt is no longer an option.