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Tigers lose speedy Davis to sprain near groin

After exiting loss early, center fielder to be re-evaluated on Sunday

DETROIT -- The Tigers have overcome a series of injuries to come within a win of their fourth consecutive American League Central title. They'll likely have to take the final step without Rajai Davis, the speedy catalyst who filled the void in center field after Austin Jackson was traded.

Davis left Saturday's 12-3 loss to the Twins with a sprain of the pubic symphysis, near his midsection, after breaking awkwardly out of the batter's box on a second-inning groundout. He's scheduled to be re-evaluated on Sunday, when the Tigers will try again to clinch their division. Detroit's magic number to clinch the AL Central is one over Kansas City, which lost, 5-4, to the White Sox on Saturday night to remain one game back.

Davis was moving around the home clubhouse well and left Comerica Park on his own without trouble. For someone whose game relies on his mobility, it remains to be seen how well Davis can recover from an injury rarely seen in sports.

"He's actually moving pretty well," manager Brad Ausmus said. "He said he actually feels pretty good. But that's obviously not running. He's just walking around the clubhouse."

Davis entered the game batting 6-for-14 on the week. He came up in the second inning with two on and two outs against Ricky Nolasco and tried to get a quick first step out of the box on a ground ball to short.

A couple of steps later, Davis grimaced in pain. He jogged down the line from there, beaten by the thrown, then hunched over while first-base coach Omar Vizquel checked on him. Davis then called for head athletic trainer Kevin Rand.

Davis was diagnosed with a Grade 1 sprain. The pubic symphysis joint partly functions to absorb shock during movement.

Ezequiel Carrera, who shared playing time with Davis in center during August before Davis took over the bulk of the starts, replaced Davis in center for the top of the third inning.

When the Tigers clinched a postseason spot for a fourth consecutive year earlier this week, it clinched the first trip to the playoffs for Davis after more than 950 career regular-season games. Any significant injury might jeopardize his chances of playing in the postseason.

Davis has played in 134 games this year, avoiding a serious injury bug despite emphasizing hard running and quick movements. His health allowed him to get the daily reps in center field that improved his defense there, giving him better reads and routes on fly balls.

The Tigers have moved away from starting Carrera since the end of August, preferring super-utility man Don Kelly in games against tough right-handed pitchers. Carrera has started one game since Sept. 1, while Kelly made three starts in center from Sept. 7-10.

If Davis' injury lingers into the playoffs, Ausmus will have a decision to make. Kelly is a veteran postseason performer, but Carrera is closer than anyone on the Tigers' roster to possessing Davis' speed. Carrera, a Minor League free-agent signing last winter, spent most of the summer on a hitting tear at Triple-A Toledo before Detroit called him up to take Jackson's roster spot at the end of July.

Jason Beck is a reporter for Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.
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