It won't be tonight, but it might not be far off. What was looking like a return by the end of the road trip now looks like it could happen this weekend in Houston.
"I think sooner rather than later," manager Brad Ausmus said. "I think [Houston] is a possibility, but I wouldn't say it's 100 percent."
Barring a setback in Cabrera's left calf, however, it's clearly something Cabrera is pushing. After nearly six weeks off, right around his original timetable when he strained the calf last month, he's itching to return. He said more than once in his brief interview session that he wants to play.
Cabrera took live batting practice off sidearming lefty Tom Gorzelanny, but did more tracking pitches than swinging at them. He's had enough regular batting practice that his swing is fine. He ran a handful of trips from home to first, then one trip from first to third, before wrapping it up.
That won't be enough to test the calf, he acknowledges, so he'll pick it up Wednesday.
"Hopefully I can feel better tomorrow and run with a little more effort and try to be ready when they say," Cabrera said.
It's technically the Tigers' call, but it's very much in Cabrera's hands. He'd have to approve any Minor League rehab assignment, and while Ausmus said they'll discuss it with him when the time comes, there's a growing expectation he'll bypass that step.
"If I'm going to get hurt, if it's in Toledo or here, it doesn't matter," Cabrera said.
If first base is the last test, he was pushing that Tuesday. He took grounders with some intensity during pregame batting practice, diving for one ball down the line and making a throw to second base from his knees. Those are the plays, the side-to-side plays, that give him a test. Running straight ahead seems to be no problem.
"I'm feeling good taking ground balls," he said. "I'm moving good. Yesterday I tried double plays. I tried to go back to first. I think that's the hard play I can make, charging a ground ball and going to second base."
The Tigers entered play Tuesday with a 14-19 record with Cabrera out of the lineup. It's the exact same record they had in their previous 33 games with Cabrera in the lineup, which helped put them in this position of weighing how quickly to bring him back with the Tigers on the fringe of the postseason chase.
Still, playoff race or no, Cabrera clearly wants to play. He's had enough sitting around and watching.