DETROIT -- The good news for Miguel Cabrera is that the Tigers slugger was back in the lineup for Tuesday’s series opener against the Rays. The bad news is that the knee issues that forced him out of the lineup last weekend in Atlanta will be a factor for the rest of his career.
An MRI taken on Saturday on Cabrera’s right knee showed “chronic changes to his knee that are a natural result of the attrition of a long athletic career,” head athletic trainer Doug Teter said Tuesday afternoon.
Four specialists reviewed the MRI, including Tigers team physician Dr. Stephen Lemos and noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews. Though surgery was discussed, the consensus opinion was to treat the issue symptomatically, day to day, based on how Cabrera feels.
“All four thought it was in his best interests not to go [the surgical] route at this time,” Teter said.
For the foreseeable future, Cabrera will be limited to designated hitter, something he said he’s going to have to accept. As scary as it sounds, the diagnosis came as a relief to Cabrera, whose goal was to avoid surgery.
“Really good news,” Cabrera said. “I’m so happy. Now I look forward to going out there, doing what they tell me to do to get ready for the game and try to be on the field. …
“I know I can play like this, but in Atlanta I was worried that something bad is going to come. That’s why I asked to check my knee and make sure it’s nothing big.”
To say the diagnosis is nothing big might be optimistic. But as long as he can play through the pain, Cabrera will take it. He knows he can play through injuries. Ironically, playing through injuries during Detroit's playoff runs -- a torn groin in 2013, a broken foot in '14, ankle issues in '16, back issues in '17 and other smaller issues along the way -- likely contributed to the situation he faces now.
Cabrera kept playing, often while trying to get the Tigers to a World Series or playoff berth.
“The doctors say I’ve had this for five years,” Cabrera said. “I’m used to this. Sometimes you pay the price when you play for a lot of years. Sometimes you pay the price when you play when you’re hurt. …
“The only advice I can say to young kids is take care of their body when they have to. When they have something, stop playing for a week and come back. Don’t play through pain, because you’re going to pay the price later.”
Given what Cabrera knows now, would he do anything different?
“No,” he replied, “because that’s the way I am. I feel proud of what I’ve done in the past. I feel proud because I want to be on the field.”
Cabrera also feels proud to still be playing.
“We’re getting older. You can’t stop that. That’s a good thing,” he said. “When you’re getting older and you’re still in the big leagues, that’s a great thing, too. It’s been 17 years here [in the Majors]. You have to feel proud for that.”
Asked if surgery was an option after the season, Cabrera shook his head, a sign of how serious the surgical option would be.
“No, no, no,” he said. “That’s not in the book. Forget about that. No chance.”
Harrison to undergo hamstring surgery
Tigers second baseman Josh Harrison is scheduled to undergo surgery this week to repair a tear of his left hamstring. The decision followed an exam from Dallas Cowboys team physician and specialist Dr. Daniel Cooper.
“After his exam and the review of the MRI by Dr. Cooper, they believe the surgical intervention is his best option at this point,” Teter said.
The typical recovery time for such a surgery is six to eight weeks, according to Teter.
Harrison left the May 27 game against the Orioles after hurting his hamstring while sliding into third base. Harrison was optimistic he wouldn’t be out long before the consultation with Cooper.
Harrison was initially diagnosed with a Grade 2 hamstring strain. By definition, that degree of strain includes at least a partial tear.
Shortstop Jordy Mercer also saw Cooper for a second opinion on his strained right quad. While Mercer won’t need surgery, the injury is enough for the Tigers to put his Minor League rehab assignment on hold.
Mercer is on his second injured-list stint for a right quad strain. Teter said this one is in a slightly different spot.